Valverde opts out of contract, released by Padres

Right-hander will test free agency before considering invite to Minors

Valverde opts out of contract, released by Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Veteran reliever Jose Valverde opted out of his Minor League contract on Wednesday and the Padres gave him his outright release. But manager Bud Black said on Thursday morning that Valverde has an open invitation to return to pitch at the Triple-A level if he isn't signed by another Major League team.

"I like Papa Grande. He's been a nice addition here," said Black, referring to Valverde hours before the Padres played the Brewers at Peoria Stadium in their final Cactus League game.

"I think it's the right thing to do for him to explore other options that might possibly get him to the Majors, but if those don't work out for him, we have an invitation for him to go to Triple-A. When we set the roster on Sunday, we decided he won't be in our bullpen, but he made it awful hard on us."

Valverde entered camp this spring as a non-roster player with a slim chance of making the team because of a logjam of relievers held over from a bullpen that was second in the Majors with a 2.73 ERA last year. The Padres were 60-1 in games they led after six innings

Valverde had a decent spring, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits (two homers) while striking out eight and walking only one in 8 2/3 innings. He was 0-2 with a save and opponents hit .222 against him in his nine appearances. Even so, Joaquin Benoit will be the Padres closer.

"I feel great. My arm feels good," said Valverde, the big right-hander who turned 37 on March 24 and came in with 288 saves over 12 seasons with four teams. "My velocity is good. My split is good. Everything is good."

Valverde said he preferred to test free agency again rather than go immediately to the Minors in the Padres organization. Right now, he said he has no other Major League offers. He'll return to his home in the Dominican Republic to see his family and wait.

"I have to call my agent," Valverde said. "There's nothing yet. I'm sure there are a few clubs out there that need relievers."

The Dodgers are one of them. They left camp on Wednesday without a designated closer and returned to Los Angeles for their annual three-game Freeway Series against the Angels, beginning on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

"My agent told me something is coming soon. I don't know exactly what's going on," Valverde said. "I think there are a lot of teams out there that might want my services. I just have to wait. We'll see just what team will sign the old guy."

Valverde will offer some team a closer with bonafide playoff experience. He saved 47 games for the 2007 D-backs when they went to the postseason, 49 for the Tigers when they lost to the Rangers in the 2011 American League Championship Series, and 35 a year later as the Giants swept the Tigers in the World Series.

Valverde faltered after that. Save for a short stint with the Mets last season, Valverde hasn't pitched much in the Majors since Detroit released him on Aug. 7, 2013.

But it wasn't to be in San Diego, either. At the outset of camp, Valverde's fastball was clocked at 98 miles per hour, but coaches began to become alarmed when they noticed that his velocity dipped as camp grew longer.

"Nobody maintains the same velocity all through Spring Training," Valverde said. "I was throwing 98, maybe now about 92-93. It doesn't matter. I threw strikes and my arm felt good. It's too bad. I like it here. This is a good group of guys. But that's baseball. I'm good. It's time to move on."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.