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Tigers RHP Valverde vows to never change his ways

DETROIT (AP) — Jose Valverde points, pulsates and shouts.

The Detroit closer says he has been animated on the mound since he was 17, playing in the Dominican Summer League, and plans to let his emotions show for the rest of his career.

The Tigers simply hope he doesn't change how he has pitched when they open a homestand Friday night against Oakland.

Valverde has blown only one of 12 save chances this year. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 19 appearances, the second-longest active streak in baseball and fourth best by a Tiger since 1952, according to STATS LLC.

Those are the results the Tigers were hoping for when they signed him to a $14 million, two-year contract in January after deciding not to bring back Fernando Rodney or Brandon Lyon. Valverde led the National League in saves in back-to-back seasons, combining for 91 with Houston and Arizona, after slipping to 25 last year as a part-time closer with the Astros.

When he has success, everyone knows it.

Valverde points to the sky and then from his left to right shoulder — to thank God, he says — after each save. Following some outs, he contorts his body and screams things to no one in particular in an act that he insists is genuine each time.

"This is my game," he said. "This is how I pitch."

Once, Valverde tried to chill out a bit. In 2005 — his third season with the Diamondbacks — his new manager wasn't a fan of Valverde's style.

"Bob Melvin told me, 'I don't like it. Stop what you're doing,'" Valverde recalled. "After I stopped doing everything, my emotions were low and I was giving up walks. Melvin called me in his office and said, 'Do whatever you want. I just want the save.'"

Tigers manager Jim Leyland approaches Valverde's antics in about the same way, saying he's not crazy about how his closer carries himself on the field before quickly adding the results are most important.

Leyland, though, wants people to know that the player known as "Papa Grande" is not a bad guy.

"Anybody that flies home on a day off to the Dominican Republic to see their mother, that's pretty good," Leyland said.

Valverde traveled from Minnesota to the Dominican Republic three weeks ago, instead of enjoying an off day between two series on the road.

"I wanted to see her for a Mother's Day surprise," he said. "She was in shock because I never did that before."

It startles some to see Valverde's antics, but opponents seem to accept what he does on the field with his arms, legs, body and mouth.

"He's done it his whole career. It's just who he is," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "As a team, you're a factor in his antics. You can get hits and score runs."

Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who hasn't fared well against Valverde, said it's difficult to stop the right-hander from putting on his show when he's effectively attacking the strike zone with fastballs and sliders that look the same coming out of his hand.

Martin insisted Valverde's consistently crazy contortions don't rub him the wrong way.

"When a guy does it once in a while, you're like, 'Where is that coming from?'" Martin said. "But when you see that all the time from a guy, you realize it just becomes a part of the routine and how they are, so you get used to it and you can't really say anything. It's just who he is.

"He's animated out there, and you can tell he's having fun."