Tigers place Phil Coke on DL, call up Ortega
For the second time in a week and a half, the Tigers have had to shelve a veteran reliever with an injury. In Phil Coke’s case, however, the injury isn’t to the arm.
Much like with Octavio Dotel, the Tigers tried to wait on Coke, who has been battling a left groin strain for nearly a week. When his latest throwing session Tuesday didn’t go as hoped, the Tigers placed the left-hander on the 15-day disabled list.
The move is retroactive to April 26, the day after he took the extra-inning loss to the Royals last Thursday.
To take his place in the bullpen, Detroit recalled right-handed reliever Jose Ortega from Triple-A Toledo. Filling his spot in the bullpen has already proven more complicated.
Drew Smyly, the starting candidate turned long reliever, has transitioned to setup work to fill the void in lefty relief, including back-to-back eighth-inning appearances the last two nights. Ortega essentially fills the long relief role and lets manager Jim Leyland focus Smyly on the late innings alongside fellow southpaw Darin Downs.
Neither Smyly nor Downs, obviously, have the experience of Coke, the primary left-hander in Detroit’s bullpen for most of the last three seasons. Coke felt the groin strain in his last outing Thursday, when he walked in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning.
In the days since, Coke has tried to get back to action, only to find himself unable to pitch pain-free. The latest effort came Tuesday during batting practice, when Coke tried to throw off flat ground. He walked back to the clubhouse with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and didn’t come back out.
The 24-year-old Ortega made an impression in Spring Training and has borderline dominant stats out of the bullpen at Toledo, allowing an unearned run on five hits over 14 innings with seven walks and 19 strikeouts.