MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time in 10 days, Jose Valverde was on the mound for the Tigers, pitching a scoreless ninth inning on Friday in Detroit's 10-6 victory over the Twins.
It was not a save situation for the Tigers closer, but it was still good to have Papa Grande back in action. Valverde has been sidelined since a May 15 appearance against the White Sox, after suffering a lower back strain.
"I thought he was good, he was fine," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Friday's victory. "I was a little worried going into the ninth, maybe a little concerned about control because he hasn't been out there for so long because of the injury, but he was pretty good, he was around the plate. He threw the ball well."
Valverde showed he is ready to resume his closers role, as he gave up just one hit and struck out the final two batters in Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. He threw a total of 22 pitches, and reached as high as 96 mph on the radar gun.
After struggling with an ERA over 5.00 early this season, Valverde hopes to return to last season's form, when he showed he was one of the best closers in the game.
Since joining Detroit in 2010, Valverde has converted 82 of his 87 save opportunities, a success rate of more than 94 percent.
Despite throwing more than 20 pitches in his inning of work, Leyland was not counting out Valverde's availability for Saturday's game with the Twins.
"He will be fine, he should be fine. If we need him, he can pitch for sure," Leyland said.
Marte to pitch in middle innings
MINNEAPOLIS -- It appears the Tigers bullpen is getting healthy again, with the addition of Luis Marte, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the series opener with the Twins.
Marte has not seen big league action yet, as he injured his left hamstring in his final Spring Training appearance. If not for the injury, Marte would've been a key factor in the bullpen. Now that he is ready to return, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has to figure out how to use him.
"You are probably going to see him in the middle, maybe the fourth inning, the fifth inning. We are pretty well covered. I may use him a little later if we are behind. He's more of a long [reliever] because he's got an assortment of pitches," Leyland said.
Leyland said the key for Marte to be successful is to keep himself sharp by throwing bullpen sessions in between outings, because long relievers can go extended stints without pitching if the starting rotation does its job.
"I hope we have that problem all year, worrying about getting the long men time, that's a good problem to have," Leyland said.
Marte made four appearances for the Tigers last September, allowing one run in 3 2/3 innings of work. Last season at Double-A Erie, he struck out 68 batters in just 53 innings of work, and had an ERA of 1.70.
Joe Kieser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.