DETROIT -- Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit, not usual closer Jose Valverde, took the mound in the ninth inning of Sunday's 6-4 win over the White Sox. It turns out that Valverde suffered a back injury, manager Jim Leyland said after the game.
"His back was a little sore [on Saturday]," Leyland said. "It didn't feel just right. It's nothing bad, but we felt like it just wasn't in our best interest to use him yet today. We have a day off [on Monday], so he should be fine for Tuesday night."
Leyland didn't say how Valverde hurt his back, only that he didn't want to take any chances -- especially with the the closer having missed time earlier in the season with a wrist injury.
Plus, it's not like Benoit was a bad option. The Tigers' setup man earned his second save of the season, retiring the side in order in the ninth. He faced Gordon Beckham, Alejandro De Aza and Kevin Youkilis, who entered the inning a combined 1-for-15 (.067) vs. Benoit.
Two quick fly-ball outs and a groundout sealed the victory and put Detroit 1 1/2 games up in the American League Central.
"Basically, we have three closers," said catcher Alex Avila after the game, not overlooking the 1 2/3 scoreless innings of work from Octavio Dotel in the seventh and eighth innings.
Valverde is 3-2 this season with a 3.76 ERA and 18 saves. Benoit, who has a 2.93 ERA and 21 holds, has also been called the best setup man in the game by Leyland on several occasions.
Avila said he didn't know who would pitch the ninth because he thought Valverde had recovered and was ready to pitch.
"I saw Jose earlier, and he was getting treatment and stuff," Avila said. "I guess he just wasn't good enough to go. I thought Benoit was going to go the eighth, Valverde the ninth ... but it worked out well for us."