Coke could still end up a starter (updated)
Don’t discount the possibility that Phil Coke still opens the season in the Tigers rotation, despite what seemed like mixed signals on that notion last month.
You might remember that though team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski labeled Coke as a starting candidate at TigerFest, Leyland indicated he preferred to have Coke work out of the bullpen to begin Spring Training and then stretch out as a starter later if necessary.
Part of the reasoning there was that the Tigers already have three candidates for the fifth spot, and they can only stretch out so many pitchers as starters in a normal Spring Training schedule. They could already have to shift some starters to Minor League games on occasion simply to get innings.
On Wednesday, though, Leyland said he’s been “tossing and turning on what to do with Coke.”
Part of the reason is the potential need for a lefty starter if
neither Nate Robertson nor Dontrelle Willis win the job. Another reason
is the abundance of lefty relievers not named Phil Coke, such as Bobby
Seay, Fu-Te Ni, Brad Thomas and Daniel Schlereth.
For now, Leyland said, he’s going to “let that [question] hang for a while.”
In other words, he’s going to start out Coke in the bullpen, but leave open the possibility of stretching him out later in camp if need be. But he won’t make that decision until after the Spring Training games begin.
He’ll discuss the timing with pitching coach Rick Knapp.
“You’ve got to make sure it’s not too soon,” Leyland said, “but you’ve got to make sure it’s not too late.”
What does Coke think? Well, until he hears otherwise, he’s going to prepare as a starter.”
“The title doesn’t mean anything to me,” Coke said Wednesday. “They told me there’s an opportunity that I could start, so until they change my mind, that’s what I’m going to do.”
We might find out more about that from Leyland in the coming days.