August 21st, 2013

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Twins

Miguel Cabrera is back in the lineup at third base. He suffered a groin injury on his first-pitch swing in the ninth inning Tuesday night, but manager Jim Leyland said today that he feels better now than he did yesterday. So he’s going.

Brayan Pena is not. His right toe injury has him out of the lineup tonight. Bryan Holaday gets the start behind the plate. Leyland said he could catch in an emergency, but he’s hurting. For tonight, though, Pena is still the likely backup. Victor Martinez was doing some work behind the plate before batting practice this afternoon, but that was in preparation for possible work this weekend against the Mets.

“I’m contemplating catching him a game in New York, and I’ll leave it at that,” Leyland said.

That is not necessarily related to Alex Avila’s status, but there’s a chance that Avila could be ready by then. He took batting practice again today. If he comes out of that with no issues, he could be cleared for a rehab assignment. It could be only one game to make sure he has no lingering side effects. It could be a few games. The top three Tigers affiliates are all on the road starting Thursday, but Leyland didn’t rule out the possibility of sending him with the Mud Hens on the road to Louisville.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers off Kevin Correia)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (3-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-3)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (11-for-22, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (5-for-28, HR, 2 walks, K)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-3, K)
  6. Andy Dirks, LF (1-for-9)
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (4-for-8)
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Bryan Holaday, C

P: Anibal Sanchez

TWINS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B (0-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. Chris Herrmann, RF
  3. Justin Morneau, DH (4-for-16, walk, 3 K’s)
  4. Ryan Doumit, C (4-for-16, walk, 7 K’s)
  5. Chris Colabello, 1B (0-for-1, K)
  6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-9, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  7. Clete Thomas, CF (1-for-2, K)
  8. Wilkin Ramirez, LF
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS (4-for-9, K)

P: Kevin Correia

Phil Coke and postseason eligibility

Yes, Phil Coke will be back with the Tigers once rosters expand Sept. 1. Manager Jim Leyland made that clear when he announced the move after the game Tuesday night.

“He’s going to be back here,” Leyland said. “He’s very much a part of our team. This is an opportunity to go down and see what he does.”

And when he returns, he will be postseason eligible.

Under normal circumstances, the rule is that players have to be on the 25-man roster on Aug. 31 to be eligible for the playoff roster. If a team has to replace an injured player, someone who’s on the disabled list at season’s end, the team can go beyond the 25-man roster and grab someone who was in the organization as of Aug. 31.

Luis Marte fits the category; he had season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this year, but didn’t go on the Tigers’ 15-day disabled list until July 31. No matter what his chances were of actually making the postseason roster if he were healthy, he technically would’ve been eligible.

It’s a 1-for-1 exchange. So the Tigers couldn’t use the same injury as an excuse to, say, put Coke and Nick Castellanos on the postseason roster.

Technically, the Tigers could bypass the rule altogether and recall Phil Coke on Aug. 31, the first day he’s eligible to return unless he’s replacing an injured player. But that doesn’t sound like the plan in this case.

Yes, I fully realize that the way Coke has been pitching brings any postseason play into question. The best counterargument would be his numbers through August of last year. As of Aug. 31, Coke had allowed 65 hits over 48 1/3 innings last season, good for a .332 opposing batting average, a .407 average on balls put in play, and an .853 OPS. His numbers only slightly improved in September, and his ERA and OPS actually went up.

Could happen again.

Phil Coke to Toledo, Jose Alvarez to bullpen

Phil Coke made only one pitch Tuesday night with the intention of getting an out. Justin Morneau lined it into right field for a two-run double. A couple hours later, Coke was on his way to Triple-A Toledo.

But in the postgame comments, manager Jim Leyland made it clear that their decision to send Phil Coke to Triple-A Toledo for the rest of the month had been building.

“It’s been kind of a unique season for him all along,” Leyland said. “I think he probably had a tough first half. He has been better lately, I want to emphasize that. But he’s just got to try to locate the ball better.

“We’re just going to take advantage of this opportunity to get him down there and get him some work. He can focus down there.”

A unique season, indeed.

He was the Tigers closer in the ALCS and (in theory, at least) the World Series last October, and he earned the save for the Tigers on Opening Day as part of the bullpen by committee. He blew the second save opportunity two days later and has been on a roller-coaster since.

He was miserable against right-handed hitters, but still nasty against a decent number of lefty hitters, enough so that Leyland transitioned him into more of a lefty specialist’s role over the past month or so. It’s not a role Coke has seemed to particularly enjoy.

“It’s not something that I’m really happy about, no matter what I was doing on the field,” Coke said. “Whether I was dominating, if I was out there for one guy, it was really annoying because of being a competitor. I mean, you want to go out there and you want to do everything you can, turn the inning over to the next guy if necessary, or go out there and handle multiple innings if that’s the load that’s required of you.”

Yet after Morneau’s double, Coke’s splits have actually reversed. Right-handed hitters are 18-for-66 (.273) against him, albeit with a high walk total. Lefties are now 20-for-69 (.290) against him. For Phil Coke, even back in his middle/long relief days, that’s astounding.

That said, Coke actually expected this would’ve come sooner, if it was going to happen.

“I figured it would’ve happened in the first half, not right now, especially since the velocity’s been back,” Coke said. “I’ve gotten a lot of key outs recently. I’ve been on a decent run, no earned runs. I mean, I’ve given up three or four inherited. Sometimes those things happen, but right now it’s not something we can afford as a team.”