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Lyon making fans forget Valverde

Lyon making fans forget Valverde

PHOENIX -- Jose Valverde came back. But he definitely didn't come back to haunt.

As one of the surprising spark plugs of the surprising 2007 National League West champs, Valverde led the league with 47 saves before the Diamondbacks, realigning their priorities, dealt him to Houston.

Given Valverde's stature, and the absence of a proven closer to succeed him, that transaction stirred some controversy.

But there was no need to revisit that controversy on Monday night, when Valverde visited with the Astros for the opener of a three-game series in Chase Field.

Valverde pulled in with four saves in seven opportunities, and a permissive ERA of 7.50. With the Astros rallying to convert his blown saves, Valverde also had a 3-1 record.

Not bad, but not Brandon Lyon, either. Arizona's new closer has converted seven of nine opportunities, including six straight. And the D-backs have won 12 of the 13 games in which he has appeared, a good indication of his value.

"Lyon's the same, no matter what inning or what the score," said manager Bob Melvin. "He's done very well. He's just unflappable, and executes his pitches.

"He's the type of guy, you can't tell whether he's winning or losing. He's a little different. Some guys feed off emotion and they like the theatrics. Brandon's the opposite. He's got ice in his veins. He's totally unemotional, so I'm not surprised by the success he's had."

Being the unemotional type, Lyon didn't derive any satisfaction from having the superior numbers in this first reunion with his predecessor.

"Oh, it's so early. If you judge by the first month of the season, everyone is having either a good year or a bad year," Lyon said. "I'm a great believer in the numbers evening out in the course of the season."

This, of course, is Lyon's second go as Arizona closer. He opened the 2005 season with the job, and had converted 13 of 14 saves before being sidelined with a strain in his pitching elbow. By the time he returned three months later, the job belonged to ... Valverde.

What goes around, comes around?

"I learned a little watching Jose do the job last year," Lyon said. "Just how he recovered from making a mistake, and how aggressive he stayed always, letting it fly."

Even on his best behavior, Valverde always had the potential of twisting stomachs. His hits and walks (72) exceeded his 64 1/3 innings pitched, atypical for high-end closers.

By comparison, Lyon, a 28-year-old in his seventh big league season, has been a lullaby. He has allowed 10 hits in a dozen innings, with one walk compared to nine strikeouts.

"For two-and-a-half years now, my arm has been feeling great," he said. "I feel like I'm getting better and better every year."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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