Jeff Riger: Coke Could Just Be The Start!
When Jim Leyland announced early Thursday morning that Phil Coke is no longer in the starting rotation, I think it’s safe to say that nobody was surprised. Coke has struggled mightily throughout the course of the season and especially of late considering he just got done giving up 7 earned runs on 10 hits to the Mets on Wednesday night. But it has been worse than that for Coke as he has failed to last more than 5 innings in his last 3 appearances and has registered just one quality start in his last 6. So again, nobody should be surprised that Coke is heading back to the pen, a place where he won 7 games last season. I asked Coke on Wednesday night if he felt that it was time to go back and instead of pounding his chest and yelling that he is a starter, instead he uttered the company line saying “I’m at the teams beckon call” meaning Coke is more than ready to go back to a place where he is comfortable.
Just as nobody is surprised that Coke is heading back, the same amount of people are not surprised that Charlie Furbush will take Coke’s spot in the rotation. Jim Leyland has said on several times that he is convinced that Furbush can be a starter and he will get his chance on Monday in Anaheim against the Angels. But this move is not the focal point of this blog; it’s more about what will come next for the Tigers?
As bad as Coke has been, Porcello has been just as bad or worse. The 3rd year starter is 6 and 6 this season but has an ERA just over 5. To break down the struggling a bit more, in Porcello’s last 3 outings which he only lasted 11 and a third innings, he has almost a 15 ERA. Porcello has had some very good outings this season meaning that he should at least get a couple more starts before any decision will be made, but I think it’s fair to say that he is on a short leash. In fact you can make the point that Porcello is even more important than Coke because he is the teams 3rd starter, he is counted on to pitch against better pitchers and go deep into games. Coke was an experiment, if he would have worked out it would have been great but you can always count on him to pitch successfully out of the pen. Porcello was a first round draft pick; he needs to start pitching like it!
Guillen is in Lakeland right now trying to get back in baseball shape. He is coming off the dreaded micro-fracture surgery and the club will be forced to play him when he comes back because he is making 13 million this season. Detroit’s current second base situation is in shambles. Ryan Rayburn has been inconsistent at best with the glove and bat while Ramon Santiago is only a better choice because his name is not named Rayburn. Guillen, if healthy could provide an additional bat that the Tigers could use and it comes from both sides of the plate. We know Guillen is a proven hitter, but again the question is can he stay healthy to show it. I fully expect Guillen to get another shot at 2nd when he comes back, but like in years past I don’t expect him to finish the season with the team.
Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordonez are also question marks for the Tigers. Can they both get healthy and give the team what their track records indicate. In Magg’s case, he has to hit for average and display some form of power that he used to be capable of. As for Inge, he needs to go deep. If he hits a couple memorable homers and plays solid defense then he will be penciled in every game at third base.
The Tigers have a lot of question marks on this team and with the trade deadline coming up and potential prospects waiting for their chance, this team could look dramatically different when September rolls around. The transformation has already started with Coke, now who’s next?