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.”