Ailing Valverde avoiding DL -- for now
Astros closer hoping rest helps with sore right leg
CINCINNATI -- In the middle of the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park on Monday afternoon, Astros closer Jose Valverde put on a little show. He rolled up his pant leg to showcase his swollen shin. He looked up at the assembled gatherers to make sure they were watching. Then he pressed a finger into his shin.
He pulled his finger away, but the dent in his leg remained. That's how swollen his leg is, and though there were no doctors in the vicinity, the prognosis did not look favorable. But it may have been the best answer to how Valverde was feeling after pitching a scoreless ninth inning Sunday against Milwaukee to record his second save of the season.
The verdict: Valverde will take the next couple days off to see how his injury responds to some extra rest.
"I'll take a couple more days," said Valverde, noticeably limping around the clubhouse before Monday's opener against the Reds. "I'm not doing nothing right now. I'll be OK. I'm not in pain, but it's swollen too much right now."
In last Tuesday's win against the Dodgers, a ball off the bat of Orlando Hudson struck Valverde in the right ankle, and as the ball rolled away, he tried to recover and make the play at first. That's when he strained his right calf.
He pitched on Sunday, but he said after the game that he felt pain most of the time he was on the mound. On Monday, he said the outing only made his injury worse.
The disabled list perhaps is an option, but Houston manager Cecil Cooper would rather wait to see how Valverde feels over the next couple days.
"That's what we need," Cooper said. "He's a guy we need. We can't have him limping around the next two or three weeks like this. We need to get him right. Whatever it takes."
Cooper has a mishmash of options to replace Valverde in the closer's role. He can use LaTroy Hawkins (78 career saves in 15 seasons), Geoff Geary (one career save) or Chris Sampson, and Cooper said he probably will decide who will close based on the matchups. Or he could go with Doug Brocail, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list Sunday.
Brocail missed the past 14 games with a rotator cuff strain, and although he looked rusty Sunday -- walking two batters and loading the bases before getting out of the inning unscathed -- Cooper liked the way the ball came out of Brocail's hand.
"Doug sometimes gets in a position where he keeps you on the edge like that," Cooper said. "[[Sunday] was his first day back with no rehab, and sometimes that's a little tough to do. I thought he did a good job, considering it was his first time back. He looked sharp, but he was missing the zone a little bit. He had the pop in his fastball. I know the command will come."
Josh Katzowitz is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.