Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland became emotional this morning, saying that he is “totally shocked and brokenhearted” that Jose Valverde has not found a job as a closer.

“I can’t believe it,” Leyland said. “This guy was absolutely fantastic for us. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever managed.”

Valverde racked up 110 saves for the Tigers over the last three years. But the Tigers did not re-sign him during the off-season, because he struggled at the end of 2012. By the end of the season, Valverde basically was benched.

“I think the Tigers felt it was just time,” Leyland said about letting Valverde go. “It was pretty rough on him the last period there in Detroit. It got a little rough on the kid.”

Leyland said that he has recommended Valverde “highly” to a couple of teams but declined to name them.

“What this guy did for the Detroit Tigers cannot be forgotten, in my opinion,” Leyland said. “That would be a shame. This guy was absolutely tremendous, and a tremendous teammate. One of the best I’ve ever managed.”

Leyland said that Valverde struggled last year because he wasn’t able to consistently throw his splitter.

“For some reason, his split wasn’t splitting like it did,” Leyland said. “I think the split is still there. I think it will come back.”

More than anything, Leyland remembers when Valverde saved 49 games in 2011.