Results tagged ‘ Phil Coke ’

Phil Coke is only change to Tigers ALCS roster

The Tigers made their 25-man roster official Saturday morning for the American League Championship Series, with only one change, returning left-hander Phil Coke to the bullpen for right-hander Luke Putkonen.

Everybody else remains the same, including former shortstop Jhonny Peralta as the right-handed hitting option in left field and rookie Hernan Perez as a pinch-running specialist.

The Tigers announced on Friday that Coke would be on the roster after missing more than three weeks with soreness in his left forearm. He spent the Division Series working out with the Tigers’ Florida Instructional League squad in Lakeland, trying to get his arm back in pitching shape.

Before Coke left, he said he had been pitching through the forearm issue for most of the summer. That might have played some part in his uncharacteristic numbers, especially against left-handed hitters, who batted .299 (23-for-77) against him compared to a .241 average for his career.

With no regular-season prep time, the Tigers are taking a chance that a healthy arm will help Coke fare better against the left-handed hitters Boston features. Coke’s career numbers against David Ortiz (2-for-18, four strikeouts) and Jacoby Ellsbury (1-for-11, four strikeouts) make it worth the risk, allowing manager Jim Leyland to play matchups earlier in the game if he needs to against a Red Sox lineup that runs up starters’ pitch counts.

Putkonen was the only Tigers pitcher that didn’t appear in their AL Division Series against Oakland. With regular-season starters Rick Porcello and Alvarez working out of the bullpen, Putkonen was essentially a third long reliever for depth purposes. Porcello can pitch in shorter situations, as he did in a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning of Game 2 in the Division Series.

Left-hander Darin Downs and right-hander Evan Reed remain in Florida working out in case the Tigers need to make an injury replacement. Hard-throwing rookie right-hander Bruce Rondon is down there, too, but hasn’t yet progressed with his sore elbow enough to reach pitching shape.

The positional roster was fairly set. Though Matt Tuiasosopo continues to travel with the team and work out on the field during batting practice, Peralta’s success has allowed him to pretty well fill Tuiasosopo’s old role.

The Tigers can carry Perez on the roster as an extra positional player thanks to a four-man starting rotation. His primary role is to run for designated hitter Victor Martinez in the late innings, as he did in Game 4. He scored what turned out to be a critical insurance run on an eighth-inning wild pitch.

Perez, widely regarded as Detroit’s second baseman of the future but also a potential emergency option at shortstop, stole 28 bases in 35 attempts between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season. He does not have the blistering speed of his Boston pinch-running counterpart, former Tiger Quintin Berry, but the Tigers aren’t expecting him to steal bases so much as they’re using him to take an extra base on hits.

Leyland on using Ortega in 11th

Neil Walker is a switch-hitter, but his splits have always been stronger against right-handed pitching (.286 career average, .801 OPS) than lefties (.260, .662). Never have those splits been stronger than this year, albeit in limited at-bats after missing time to the disabled list. He’s 5-for-30 so far off southpaws, and 30-for-105 against right-handers, including all three of his home runs.

So why did Walker face right-hander Jose Ortega in the 11th inning Tuesday night? It was the situation — one out, nobody on base. Jim Leyland said afterwards that he had Phil Coke ready, and would have brought him in if leadoff man Starling Marte had reached base.

“If the first guy would’ve gotten on, I would’ve brought in Coke to turn Walker around [and] to hopefully hold [Marte] at first base,” Leyland said. “And then you’ve got [Andrew] McCutchen coming up next, so you might have had to make another move, which is all right. But once he got Marte out, I was going to leave him in.”

Drew Smyly was on rest last night. Darin Downs was another option. The main motivation, though, would have been to hold Marte at first.

“If he got on, I was going to bring Cokey in so he could hold him at first, because that guy can really run,” Leyland continued. “If Walker bunts, gets him to second, then you can walk McCutchen and then you’ve got [Garrett] Jones, the left-hander. And then you’ve still got a right-hander ready if they happen to pinch-hit. You’re still ready to do that.”

Early notes: Boesch day-to-day with oblique tightness

It’s all relative, but it’s a chilly morning by Florida standards in Lakeland, where Bruce Rondon is scheduled to throw to hitters this afternoon. One hitter who will not be taking part today is Brennan Boesch, who tweaked his right oblique while taking swings on Saturday.

It’s a precautionary move, Boesch said. Better to miss a few days now and be ready when games begin next weekend than to have this linger. Remember, Boesch was bothered by minor injuries last spring training, including lower back soreness and a bad ankle.

“It’s February. I don’t want to take any chances right now,” Boesch said. “Get it over with so I can get plenty of at-bats in Spring Training. …

“I’m optimistic I’ll be out there in the next day or two. The most important thing is not rushing it so I get all the at-bats I need in spring to compete and to prepare for the season.”

Other notes from Sunday morning:

  • Look for the Tigers to get Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus some time in left field this spring as they try to determine just how useful the speedy right-handed hitter can be as a utility player. Kobernus was almost exclusively a second baseman in the Nationals system the last four years, but said he did outfield work this winter to prepare. With his speed and his success against left-handed pitching in the minors (.326 last year at Double-A Harrisburg, .306 at Harrisburg in 2011), he definitely has manager Jim Leyland’s attention. “I think he’s a very interesting guy,” Leyland said, “and he will definitely get every possible look to see if he’s a fit or not.”
  • Leyland says they have 15 legitimate candidates for the bullpen, including sure things like Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel. It’s a good number to have, and potentially could give them some options at the end of camp as well as into the season, but the closer question is going to have an impact throughout the bullpen unless they have one guy who can take hold of the job.

Seven eligible Tigers file for arbitration

It’s a formality, but still worth noting that the seven Tigers eligible for arbitration all filed on Tuesday. The list includes three members of rotation (Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello), two members of the starting lineup (Alex Avila, Austin Jackson), lefty Phil Coke and outfielder Brennan Boesch.

Basically, what it means is that none of them have apparently reached deals yet to avoid arbitration. There’s still plenty of time for that, but the next big milepost in the process will come on Friday, when they’ll exchange arbitration figures with the team. That’s usually the step that gets both sides moving towards a deal, because it provides a range to use to find a middle ground. From there, the two sides have until at least Feb. 4 to negotiate before hearings begin taking place.

The Tigers have not had to go to an arbitration ruling since Dave Dombrowski took over as GM in 2002. They’ve come close a couple times, but usually they settle soon after the two sides exchange numbers.

As expected, Phil Coke available out of bullpen

Wednesday’s rainout was enough of an off-day for Phil Coke that the left-hander is now available out of the bullpen again. Jim Leyland said Wednesday afternoon he was going to rest him, which Mother Nature allowed him to do.

What that means for the closer’s situation is more of the same.

“Everybody’s available today,” Leyland said this morning, “and we’ll play it by ear.”

When (if at all) do you go back to Big Potato?

Got home from the rainout last night in time in tune in MLB Network for Cards-Giants highlights, but also caught an interesting take from Larry Bowa, who said he would use Jose Valverde in the ninth inning of Game 4 if the Tigers had a two-run lead or more. If it was a one-run game, he would still with Phil Coke.

It brings up an interesting point: IF you’re going to try to ease Jose Valverde back into the closer’s role, do you try to do it with the chance at an ALCS sweep? Do you give him a save situation at all for his first game back?

Keep in mind, it’s a different question now than it was last night, because Coke should now be available for Game 4. For that matter, Joaquin Benoit and every Tigers reliever other than Coke haven’t thrown in three days.

Leyland concerned “a little bit” about Phil Coke

Jim Leyland was asked after Wednesday’s loss if he’s concerned about Phil Coke and his recent struggles. Here was his answer:

“Obviously we need to get him going, so I would say that … Concerned? A little bit. But in a panic mode? No. But we’ve got to get him going. He’s very important for us, because our other two lefties are very inexperienced. So it’ll be important to get him going. It’s just a matter of him getting the ball where he’s trying to get it. But when you don’t at this level, you pay the price.”

The last part was a repeat of what Leyland said a couple minutes earlier when asked what he saw out of Coke Wednesday night.

“He’s just not getting the ball where he’s trying to get it,” Leyland said.

Phil Coke was asked later if he’s concerned about his recent struggles. His answer:

“The concern I had was my last outing. My last two outings were my concern, and I made my adjustments I needed to make, and I was throwing the ball really well tonight.”

This is the point where Coke clearly has a different definition. His focus was on how he feels with his delivery and his pitches. Everybody else’s concern is on the results. That’s something a lot of pitchers go through. In his defense, Leyland pointed out that his three hits included a bloop single from Nick Swisher and a ground ball through the left side from Mark Teixeira, and his second run came home after an 11-pitch at-bat from Eric Chavez.

“They kept getting their hits and you could see that their confidence had swung for the better and it was a matter of trying to make them mishit the ball,” Coke said. “For the most part, I felt like I did that. I broke Swisher’s bat and Cano didn’t hit the ball over the wall. I mean, he hit the ball in the gap and Jackson wasn’t able to track it down, but I mean, those things happen. Resultswise, I’m not necessarily upset, because I felt like I made all but one pitch tonight. I’m OK with my results as far as how I felt, how the ball’s coming out of my hand, because that’s what I was struggling with.”

That said, the Tigers began the inning with an 8-7 deficit and ended the inning with a 10-7 deficit. If the fourth inning was the key to Tuesday’s win, the eighth inning was probably the key to the Yankees holding on.

“A lot of times you don’t care how you win games,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Just win.”

Coke threw 25 pitches, 21 of them for strikes, so the command woes of his previous couple outings — 49 pitches, 25 strikes over his previous two outings, including two costly walks — weren’t as big. At the same time, just two of those 21 strikes were swings and misses. One was to Chavez before he fouled off seven pitches to extend his at-bat.

Said Coke: “I know people just look at the results, but at the same time, the results are whatever they’re going to be. You can’t script the game. If you could, I mean, we’d already have like 150 World Series titles. But you can’t. It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you just run into a team that’s on a hot streak.”

As for how he feels, Coke said, “I’m feeling better than I did earlier in the season. Tonight, I felt like I’m supposed to feel. I felt strong, I felt smooth, and the ball was jumping out of my hand.”

When asked about Leyland’s concern, Coke said Leyland had talked to him about it earlier in the week.

“He voiced his concern,” Coke said, “and I hope I put that concern to rest.”

Tigers avoid arbitration with Porcello, Coke

Expect most of the Tigers’ arbitration cases to get settled this week, and Rick Porcello and Phil Coke are the first, agreeing to terms on one-year deals.

Porcello will be paid $3.1 million. Coke gets $1.1 million, with another $50,000 possible in bonuses — $25,000 each for 65 or 70 games pitched, or $25,000 each for 15 or 25 games started. Don’t read anything into the starting bonuses.

Porcello was eligible for arbitration for the first time as a super-2 player, not getting the three full seasons to be eligible under traditional rules but having enough time short of three seasons to qualify. He has four more seasons before he’s eligible for free agency, so the motivation to sign him to a long-term deal was minimal. Recent history shows those deals usually get done when a pitcher is two years away from free agency, though Gio Gonzalez’s recent deal with the Nationals makes you wonder if the Tigers would’ve done the same thing with him had they pulled off a trade for him.

The Tigers have four arbitration cases left with Phil Coke, Max Scherzer, Delmon Young and Don Kelly. Young’s case figures to be the most intriguing, being eligible for a third time and coming off a season that had a rough start but a strong finish, with a trade in between.

Coke: “I’m not ready to go home yet”

Phil Coke kisses the ball that got him the final out of Game 5. (Getty Images)

Phil Coke kisses the ball that got him the final out of Game 5. (Getty Images)

Not surprisingly, Phil Coke was going crazy in the bullpen while the Tigers were rallying ahead in the sixth inning. He had a good view when Delmon Young’s home run completed the natural cycle and put the Tigers up 6-2. He wasn’t thinking about the ninth inning at that point, or the eighth for that matter, or whenever he would have to close.

When he did, he thought back to Tampa Bay.

The one save Coke recorded this year was a two-inning, 51-pitch marathon Aug. 23 at Tropicana Field that required him to finish off the Rays once the Tigers took the lead in the seventh. The headline was Brad Penny outpitching David Price, but Coke was the finishing act, stranding the tying run at third and winning run at second with a Ben Zobrist groundout.

When he got the call Thursday once another Nelson Cruz home run whittled Detroit’s lead to 7-4, that Rays save was his most recent experience. It helped balance the nerves a little.

“Yeah, it played out in my mind right after I got told I was going to close the game, when I went out for batting practice,” Coke said. “I was like, OK, I can do that. I’ve done it. I know what it’s going to take. Let’s do it. I wasn’t really nervous or anything.”

That was key. Of course, he didn’t have any cause for nerves until two hits and a walk turned the final out of his five-out save into a chore, with the potential tying run on base and Mike Napoli at bat.

“I have a personal history of overthinking things and getting myself into trouble,” Coke said. “I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be the reason why we were packing up and going home. I wasn’t OK with it.”

He stayed aggressive with Napoli, and ended up with the ground ball he needed to finish off the Rangers and send the ALCS back to Texas for Game 6.

He was close to nerves, but not quite there.

“If I had walked Napoli, it probably would’ve been a different story,” Coke said. But at the same time, I wasn’t giving in. I didn’t care who had the bat in their hand. I wasn’t giving in. I mean, I was doing everything I could, and I wanted to have something to do in forcing this to another game. I don’t want to go home yet. I’m not ready to go home yet.”

With bullpen gassed, it’s Verlander or bust

The Tigers’ postseason hopes are going to ride or die with Justin Verlander.

With manager Jim Leyland ruling out both closer Jose Valverde and setup man Joaquin Benoit after three straight days of pitching, the only opponent that’s going to knock Verlander out of Game 5 in the American League Championship Series is his own pitch count.

It’s the opposite approach to the quick hook many managers use in elimination games in the postseason. But with a 24 regular-season wins, a pitching Triple Crown and a very strong case for AL MVP, he isn’t a typical pitcher, even in an elimination game.

“The only thing I’m worried today is his pitch count,” Leyland said Thursday morning. “I’m not worried about the results. If he gives up some runs, he gives up some runs. That’s just the way it is. Too bad, and [in that case] we’ll probably get beat.”

Given the pitch counts Verlander has piled up this season, he’s going to be out there a while. The only real concern Leyland cited is if Verlander throws a lot of pitches in the early innings and struggles to conserve pitches through the middle innings.

The only reliever Leyland mentioned by name for being on call today is left-hander Phil Coke, who mopped up the 11th inning Wednesday night after Nelson Cruz’s three-run homer gave the Rangers their 7-3 lead.

Leyland said Coke could pitch two innings “if he has to.”

“I hope he doesn’t have to,” Leyland said. “If he has to, we’re probably not going to win.”

In other words, Leyland continued, “I’m hoping Verlander can give us nine [innings].”

Verlander has thrown 13 innings over three starts this postseason, but two of those were shortened by rain. The one that wasn’t came in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees, and he delivered eight innings of four-run ball in that outing.

Valverde not only pitched three straight days, his limit during the regular season, he pitched multiple innings in two of those. His second inning of work Wednesday night was his downfall, giving up three hits and an intentional walk that led to four runs, three of them on Cruz’s homer.

When Leyland was asked about Valverde’s availability before Game 4, he had a one-word answer: “Postseason.”

Even the postseason, however, has its limits.

“I’m not pitching either one of them,” Leyland said. “Valverde’s going to say that he’s OK, but I’m not pitching him. We’re going to get somebody hurt if we’re not careful. We’ve got a guy that saved 51 games in a row, and you’ve got an option on him. I mean, people can bark, but they’re pitching on fumes and heart right now.”

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