Which is why Valverde is a top candidate for DHL's Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award, which will be selected by fans at the end of the season.
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; Rich "Goose" Gossage, the nine-time All-Star pitcher; Darryl Hamilton, former Major League outfielder and a member of the MLB On-Field Operations staff; Jerome Holtzman, the official MLB Historian and a member of the writer's wing of the Hall of Fame; and Bob Watson, vice president, On-Field Operations, Major League Baseball.
At the conclusion of the season, Major League Baseball fans have the opportunity to determine which relief pitcher had the best overall season and deserves the third-annual "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award." A list of finalists will be selected based on statistical qualifiers and fans will be able to vote for the winner online at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball. The "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award" will be presented during the Major League Baseball postseason.
Other finalists are: Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Joe Nathan (Twins), Jason Isringhausen (Cardinals), Francisco Cordero (Brewers), Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Takashi Saito (Dodgers), Bobby Jenks (White Sox), J.J. Putz (Mariners) and Trevor Hoffman (Padres).
The 2006 season was a roller coaster for Valverde. The right-hander dominated through the first six weeks before struggling so badly that he was sent to Triple-A Tucson.
This year has been a different story. From the start of Spring Training, Valverde focused on throwing just two pitches -- a mid-90s fastball and a split-finger pitch. The result has been a consistent season of saving games for a team in the thick of a pennant race.
"There's never been a question about his stuff," Melvin said. "In the past sometimes he's had a hard time bouncing back after a tough outing. This year, though, he's been able to put the rare bad game behind him and move on. I think what he went through last year made him tougher, no question."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.