Valverde ropes in DHL Delivery Award
Astros closer recognized as best reliever for month of August
HOUSTON -- Jose Valverde wants to be the best closer in the game so much he watches other successful closers to see if he can pick up something that will help him.
Whatever the Astros right-hander has been doing, it's been working quite well. Valverde racked up his 40th save of the season on Sunday and was selected as the DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award for August on Monday.
Officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball, the award recognizes the most outstanding relief pitcher during each month of the regular season.
Valverde went 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in August, converting all 11 of his save opportunities and helping the Astros play .700 ball (21-9) for the month.
In his 14 innings of work, he surrendered only five hits and three walks while striking out 17 batters. The 29-year-old Dominican Republic native did not give up a hit in 10 of his 14 outings.
"I really think it's for all my guys in the bullpen too, those are the guys that support me all the time when I'm pitching," Valverde said. "This is so exciting for me because I want to be the best closer, not only in the National League, but the American League too."
Valverde thought about that a moment and chuckled: "But I don't know right now if I can do it for the American League because they have a very good guy over there you know?"
He was of course referring to Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels, who leads the Major Leagues with 55 saves.
"I have to figure out what he's doing, because that guy has too many saves, he's doing something good and I have to check it out all the time," Valverde said. "I have the video at my house, I check out the guys all the time. [Rodriguez], Mariano Rivera, sometimes I check the starters, because I want to steal a little bit of what they're doing."
For Valverde the award further puts behind him the memory of an uncharacteristically slow start. He blew three of eight save opportunities in April, including his first two as a member of the Astros.
"My family said it too, my first two here, what happened?" Valverde said. "I told my wife don't worry too much about that. I know I can do it. Right now it's going good."
Valverde struck out multiple batters in an inning five times in August, including striking out the side in consecutive wins over Cincinnati on Aug. 27-28. A 2007 National League All-Star while a member of the Diamondbacks, Valverde is 5-3 with a 3.60 ERA and 40 saves in 46 opportunities on the season, with 77 strikeouts in 65 innings.
Entering Monday night's game against Pittsburgh, Valverde had earned saves in each of his past 15 opportunities, dating back to July 25.
In recognition of the honor, DHL will donate $1,500 to the St. Monica Youth Sports Ministry in Houston in Valverde's name. This donation will be made in conjunction with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF), a joint initiative of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Fans can visit www.mlb.com/dhl throughout the season to access information, unique statistics, video clips and exclusive editorial content focused on the DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month/Year Award.
The DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award winner is selected by a special Major League Baseball "yellow-ribbon" panel that includes Mike Bauman, national columnist for MLB.com; Darryl Hamilton, former Major League outfielder and a member of the MLB on-field operations staff; and Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for MLB.
At the conclusion of the season, Major League Baseball fans will have the opportunity to determine which relief pitcher had the best overall season and deserves the fourth annual DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.