By Ashley Dunkak
Tuesday, Phil Coke could have been given the benefit of the doubt. Wednesday, there was no such relief.
In his first appearance in eight days, the Detroit Tigers reliever did not inspire much confidence Tuesday, but an error instead of what should have been an inning-ending double play provided some wiggle room. His next outing, Wednesday, he walked two batters, allowed three hits and gave up four runs – three of them earned.
Now it has been reported that Coke will be out for a few days with elbow tenderness.
Coke was sent down to Triple-A Toledo for a few weeks before being brought back to the Tigers as part of September call-ups, but his location issues remain, much to the chagrin of Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
“Look, I’ll make this simple,” Leyland began. “Phil is just not making good enough pitches to get big-league hitters out right now. He’s hanging his breaking ball. He’s throwing the ball down the middle of the plate. It’s as simple as that, and certainly nobody’s upset with him, but that’s the simple fact. So I’ll answer it that way and we’ll move on to the next question. He’s just not throwing good enough pitches to get big-league hitters out right now.”
Leyland fielded one more Coke question later, reluctantly, and stayed with his original statement.
“Phil Coke’s a veteran that’s got good stuff,” Leyland said. “Right now, as I said before – and we’ll stop this conversation about Phil Coke right after this – he’s not – and I’m defending anybody or criticizing anybody – he is just not making good enough pitches to get big-league hitters out right now. Next question.”
The next question for the Tigers, of course, is how this bullpen – which has looked so much more reliable than he did early in the season – will hold up through the rigors of postseason baseball and whether Coke will be part of the staff.