Hold that thought on Phil Coke

I know it was a pretty big story when Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday that lefty Phil Coke would be stretched out and potentially viewed as a contestant for the fifth starter’s spot. But manager Jim Leyland indicated he still sees Coke’s future in relief.

“Personally, I’m looking at him more as a bullpen guy,” Leyland said. “I think we’re going to have enough issues when you talk about Galarraga bouncing back and Bonderman bouncing back and Nate Robertson bouncing back and Dontrelle Willis bouncing back. There’s only so many innings.

“Am I ruling it out? No, I’m not. But you can only give so many innings to so many guys in Spring Training, and the one thing you want to make sure is that you’re getting the guys ready that you know need to be ready.”

That said, he has quite a few relievers, too. And now that he has Jose Valverde at the end of it, he thinks the rest of the bullpen is going to fall into place.

He did not hide his happiness for the Valverde deal.

“Getting a closer was just humongous for us,” Leyland exclaimed. “Now you can kind of work backwards and fill in some holes here and there. Here’s the sixth inning, seventh inning, eighth inning. Now Bonderman comes back, Zumaya comes back. Nate [Robertson] and Willis, you don’t know how that’s going to play out. But with Scherzer, Porcello, Verlander, all of a sudden you look pretty good.”

He also did not hide his hope for another left-handed hitter.

“We’d like to have one,” Leyland said. “It’s just not that easy to find.”

Other Leyland tidbits included his outlook on the catching situation, where Alex Avila’s potential playing time is a looming issue to determine whether or not he sticks with the big club.

“Normally playing time is dictated by performance,” Leyland said. “The better you play, the more you play. We obviously have a pretty solid everyday catcher that was as good defensively last year as anybody in the league but needs to produce a little more offensively. Alex got a little experience — not a whole lot, but some good experience last year.

“I think Gerald put a lot of pressure on himself last year at handling the staff, learning the pitchers. I’m not making excuses for him; but I think he’ll be better offensively this year. I may be wrong, but I believe that. I think last year he really concentrated on getting to know Verlander and the pitchers and make sure he was handling the running game and all those things that he did so well for us. I think he’ll relax a little bit more offensively this year and produce more. We need him to produce some more offensively, there’s no question about that. And he knows that.”

10 Comments

Gosh, what a dilemma for the Skipper to be in. It’s good to hear a few words from him and know they would still like left handed bat. Go Tigers!!! I can hardly wait til spring training!!!

Same here pup! I am so looking forward to having the Tiger season get under way – basketball/hockey/football in Detroit are having rough years and I lose interest fast – not so with the boys of summer though – even when they are struggling I still have to watch them.

I, too, am anxious for Spring Training. It’s not that I don’t like Leyland, I just do not agree with him. Why not rest Laird more often? More rest for Inge?Spring Training is a try out.May the best arm win,then have to keep it going.
Yes, a PRODUCTIVE left handed hitter would be sweet. 3 degrees here this morning with the wind chill! One day closer to Spring! Go Tigers, 2010! –Dave

With the winter caravan starting and Tigerfest Saturday I’m looking forward to the season starting too. Still alot of issues with this team though. I’m really concerned about the batting lineup if the team opens with what it has right now. It could be one of the weakest in the AL I think. Even if Cabrera has a great year they’ll start to pitch around him.
I’m hoping someone on here can give me reasons why I’m wrong to be worried about the lineup.

Pitchers and catchers report soon people! Thank goodness! Now honestly I have always been a positive outlook kinda Tigers fan. This trade and signing of Valverde has greatly excited me about this club to no end! However, Jims “hope springs eternal” stance on Willis or Robertson is numbing to me now at this point. I do hope they can- but really, am I counting on anything more than a spot start? No- not at all…
That said, if Stretching out Coke is what needs to be done to turn him into a 5th starter for out future then so be it and do it. Am I wrong or barring any miricle I do not know about I do not see Willis, Robertson, Miner, nor Bonderman coming back to Detroit after this season. And that probably being the case we will have more young guns graduating up thru the system and possibly a free agent or two, but at that point having Coke starting rather than releaving may be more of a necessity than just the luxary it may be now. It would be nice to get our moneys worth out of three of those four players, but looking back on the previous lost seasons- it won’t happen. And we should not just be ready for their absence as we have done lately- but be planning for it further out than just 2010.
Stretch the kid out. Worst case he would be a lefty swing man or just back to relief. Best case though it adds some competition to a thick staff to put up, or shut up and step out of the way…
Lets go boys!

I get nervous everytime I hear Leyland express his views on anything. Sounds to me like he’s already determined that Coke will be in the bullpen and he’ll choose between Robertson and Willis to get a lefty into the rotation. Once an idea gets planted in his brain, it sticks. Same with the lineup. What’s so difficult? Clete leads off and Santiago hits second. When you need late inning defense, Everett comes in and Ramon slides over to second to replace Sizemore, who was already hitting lower in the order. That way you don’t mess up the top of the order late in the game, plus you stay away from that Inge-Laird-Everett thing that some people find so abhorrent (I don’t).
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My optimism going into any of the last three seasons has always been tempered by the fact that Leyland is running the show. Perhaps DD should be more hands on with his manager.
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I do agree with Jim’s take on Laird.
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–Rich

Recalling Laird’s stats, he started the 2009 season hitting .286/.369/.411 and faded to .225/.306/.320 overall from 413 AB’s.
Laird showed at the Rangers that he can contribute more consistently if paced hitting .296/.332/.473 from 243 AB’s in 2006 and .276/.329/.398 from 344 AB’s in 2008.
Strangely, even when sparingly used, Laird has every season hit considerably worse post break with career pre break stats of .269/.331/.394 from 856 AB’s and .224/.279/.338 post break from 782 AB’s.
Avila will have to step up big time defensively and adjust offensively as he will need to get a lot more playing time.
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Valverde’s presence in the team looks like it will be far bigger than just how effective he is in saves. Interesting comments from JV on Valverde – not just the fans were beginning to think the Tigers were cutting back and having concerns for the future big time. I think the Valverde deal has made JV a Tiger for another 5 years and will probably save them a few million a year to get the deal done.
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Raburn seemed like the only fringe player last year who could adapt to JL’s musical chairs lineup hitting well up and down the order when brought in to the side.
I really hope JL doesn’t slot Sizemore and Jackson together in the top two vacant slots – a likely recipe for disaster.
JL stated the only thing set for the lineup was placing Carlos, Maggs and Miggs in the heart of the lineup. I understand one having to follow Miggs but am concerned about all the double plays this will bring.
If JL isn’t stupid enough to do a lineup at this stage, I will do one for him. I would have Jackson 1; Maggs 2; Raburn 3; Miggs 4; Carlos 5; Sizemore 6; Inge 7; Laird 8 and Ramon/ Everett 9.

Not to defend JL – but I also think that the Yankees tried Coke as a starter and also thought that he was better in the pen. His stuff just didn’t work well for 6 inning.
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On a different note – baseball is in town. I just happened to be at the bookstore in Royal Oak and low and behold who walks by me – Paws, Sizemore and Nate Robertson. Boy I love knowing that baseball is coming.
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GO TIGERS.

Just for the record, Coke has never started a big league game. He started plenty in the minors and put up excellent numbers. IMO, he has the biggest potential upside of the the three southpaws who could enter the rotation. It’s a moot point, however. If JL sees him as a reliever, nothing short of the entire rotation catching the flu will change that. And even then he’d call up Figueroa. :-)
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–Rich

Fu-Te-Ni could also be considered for a starting position as he was a starter before coming to the Tigers, but I would think that they would only try him or Coke, not both.

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