May 24th, 2011

Tuesday: Tigers vs. Rays

Jim Leyland said he’s trying to get some different combinations going and keep guys fresh, when asked about his decision to start Don Kelly at third base and bat him second tonight. Brandon Inge is healthy but out for the day, which could have something to do with Wade Davis’ .286 average allowed to left-handed hitters compared with a .228 clip for righties.

The other big decision will come in the ninth inning if the Tigers need to go to the bullpen. Closer Jose Valverde is off tonight, having pitched three of the last four days.

“Not sure who the closer is tonight,” Leyland said, “but I do need a closer tonight.”

It could be Joaquin Benoit, who has shown good signs in his last couple outings. In fact, Benoit might be the most likely candidate, given the rest of the field. He could also play specific matchups, but we’ll see.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Brennan Boesch, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, LF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Scott Sizemore, 2B

P: Justin Verlander

RAYS

  1. John Jaso, C
  2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  3. Johnny Damon, DH
  4. Evan Longoria, 3B
  5. Matt Joyce, RF
  6. B.J. Upton, CF
  7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  8. Sean Rodriguez, SS
  9. Sam Fuld, LF

P: Wade Davis

Coke to DL, Wilk called up, Oliver starting Saturday

Phil Coke’s ill-fated step coming off the mound Monday night will cost him at least the next couple weeks. It will also push prospect Andy Oliver into the Tigers rotation.

The team knew enough Tuesday morning to make a roster, placing Coke on the 15-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his right foot. Detroit purchased the contract of lefty Adam Wilk from Triple-A Toledo to take his place for now as an extra reliever, giving the Tigers an eight-man bullpen for the next four days until Coke’s rotation spot comes back around Saturday.

The Tigers took the mystery out of that spot quickly by announcing they’ll recall Oliver from Toledo to make the start Saturday night against the Red Sox at Comerica Park. He’s expected to then stick in the rotation to fill the spot the following weekend at Chicago against the White Sox.

Coke suffered the injury when he tried to chase down Ben Zobrist’s bunt attempt in the fourth inning Monday night. Though the intiial diagnosis was an ankle injury, a later exam revealed an extra bone in Coke’s foot, the left-hander said after the game. It collided with another bone in his foot when he stepped awkwardly on the cutout between the mound and home plate.

Coke had no idea how long it would need to heal, guessing it would be day-to-day. A follow-up diagnosis clearly suggested longer than that, though the Tigers didn’t announce a timetable for recovery when they announced the roster moves Tuesday morning.

Coke owns a 1-5 record and 3.81 ERA, but owns a 2.89 ERA in five May outings along with a .238 opposing batting average. He’s winless since April 14 through a combination of run support and bullpen woes.

Wilk is 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts at Toledo, but the Tigers have seen the 23-year-old as a relief prospect ever since he made an impression in Spring Training. He’ll give the Tigers a third lefty reliever for the time being, joining lefty specialist Daniel Schlereth and long man Charlie Furbush, whose 3 2/3 scoreless innings in Coke’s place earned him his first Major League win Monday.

Oliver and Furbush had been viewed as the Tigers’ best two starting prospects at Toledo, but with different styles. Oliver has a 4-3 record and 3.26 ERA in eight starts for the Mud Hens, striking out 48 batters over 49 2/3 innings while showing the ability to get quick outs and work deep into games.

Oliver went 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in five starts for the Tigers last June and July, filling a rotation spot after Rick Porcello was sent down until just after the All-Star break to work through a sophomore slump. Oliver’s success led to speculation on when he might return to Detroit, but the success of the Tigers’ current startesr ensured that his path was blocked.

The Tigers did not say what the roster move will be to make room for Oliver when he’s recalled. To make room for Wilk on the 40-man roster, Detroit designated right-handed reliever Robbie Weinhardt for assignment. The 25-year-old sinkerballer was briefly up with the big club in April, but has struggled at Toledo. Detroit will wait to see if he clears waivers and can have his contract outrighted to the Mud Hens.

Leyland apologizes, but stands by comments

Manager Jim Leyland either caught word of how his pregame remarks about second-guessing Sunday’s move with Porcello played out, or he had a chance to think about the tone he used. He apologized for some of the language he used, but he stood by his general sentiment.

It sounds less about being questioned, and more about repeating himself.

“I thought I clearly explained myself,” he said. “I did clearly explain myself. It doesn’t matter to me whether people agree or disagree. I’m always willing to explain why I did something, but I’m not going to sit there and keep getting badgered about it or argue about it. I’m not going to do that. I explained why I did it. If people still disagree, that’s their business. That’s [their] every right. That’s the fun part about it. I tried to explain that properly, but I’m not going to get into all that. I’m not going to defend every decision I make. I explained why I did it. If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine. Write it. Broadcast it. Do whatever you want. But it’s not going to change.

“I can’t worry about that. I tried to explain it like a man and get the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not going to get badgered about stuff like that. I don’t give a care about what some talk show people or what readers think. I can’t worry about that. I have to make decisions based on what I think is best for the team. It doesn’t offend me if someone disagrees. That’s their right. That’s what’s fun about me. But once I explain my reasoning, I’m not going to get into an argument about it.

Or as he eventually said, “I’m not going to defend my decisions day after day to nobody.”

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