When the Tigers opened the season in Minnesota this year, the question was, “What will they do without Jose Valverde?”

When the Tigers were in Minnesota the last three days, the question was, “What will they do with Jose Valverde?”

What manager Jim Leyland did in the ninth inning Sunday was show that Valverde is no longer the full-time closer.

With the Tigers leading by three runs entering the bottom of the ninth — a save situation — Leyland let Joaquin Benoit continue to pitch instead of summoning Valverde.

It was the first time this season that a rested and available Valverde wasn’t summoned for a ninth-inning save opportunity.

Benoit, who had gotten Joe Mauer in a big spot to end the eighth, retired all three hitters in the ninth to finish a 5-2 win at Target Field engineered by Doug Fister and Torii Hunter.

Fister took a one-hitter into the eighth, and Hunter got the scoring started with his 300th homer, a two-run drive in the first.

In his postgame news conference Sunday, Leyland was asked if Benoit, the eighth-inning setup man, will continue to be an option for the ninth.

Leyland said: “He’ll be an option, but I’m not going to get into all that stuff about the closer. I explained why I did it today. If there had been three right-handed hitters coming up (in the ninth), it might have been totally different.”

The Twins’ first three hitters in the ninth were a switch-hitter and two lefties. “I felt like his (Benoit’s) repertoire was a little better for the type of hitters they had,” Leyland had said earlier in his news conference.