CINCINNATI - Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde is known for his quirky rituals, but perhaps his routine got a bit juicier Sunday night at Great American Ball Park.
A replay appears to show Valverde spitting on a baseball in his glove just before he struck out the Reds’ Devin Mesoraco in the ninth inning of Detroit’s 7-6 win. Valverde pulled the glove close to his mouth, appeared to expectorate and then rub his pitching hand in the dirt before delivering a fastball for strike three.
Spitballs are illegal in baseball, and a pitcher is not allowed to touch his mouth while on the pitching rubber.
A slow-motion video of Valverde’s alleged spitball has made its way onto YouTube, as well as the regular-speed replay of his movements before striking out Mesoraco.
Valverde converted on all 49 save opportunities in 2011 but has struggled at times this year. He picked up saves on consecutive nights as the Tigers won their interleague series against the Reds.
The last Detroit pitcher to be scrutinized for his tactics was Kenny Rogers, who appeared to have pine tar on his hand during the first inning of a 2006 World Series game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
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