By: Jeff Riger

Remember a time when Detroit Tiger fans loved Brandon Inge? Yeah, he was everybody’s Tiger – and it remained that way for quite some time. Of course when that time expired, fans turned on him and essentially booed him out of town.

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I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it; fans have the right to boo whoever they like and Inge struggled mightily at the end. It was a brutal scene when he came to the plate his last season with the team. Fans would give it to him, he would mostly strike out and then one day he wasn’t a Tiger anymore.

When Inge moved on, fans went in search of their next target. Who would it be? What player would fans boo at every at-bat or at every mention of his name?

That lucky man was Ryan Raburn – and then he too was gone.

After Raburn, fans found themselves torn as to whom to go after next. Jose Valverde, Andy Dirks, Austin Jackson and Don Kelly all became targets.

But it never got to the level that it was with Inge – and it wasn’t even close.

Until now.

Left-handed reliever Phil Coke has the potential to top Inge if he remains on the team long enough. Coke wasn’t good last season, sporting a 5.40 ERA with a 1.670 WHIP in 38.1 innings. He was even sent to the minors to work on his game before being recalled right before September call-ups.

It has been a rough couple seasons for Coke, with the only saving grace among fans that he would not be brought back in 2014.

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Well, the fans were wrong.

Not only did Coke make the team, he has already struggled in the two games that he has pitched this season. Coke gave up three runs in one-third of an inning earlier in the week when Detroit had a six-run lead; the Tigers ended up hanging on to win by just a run.

Then yesterday, Coke made another appearance – just three days after the last one. Coke didn’t fare much better last night as he allowed the game winning hit from Carl Crawford.

I’m not sure why manager Brad Ausmus felt the need to use Coke last night. It probably had something to do with the fact that he’s a lefty and there were lefties coming up or already at the plate. Maybe Ausmus wanted to get Coke some confidence, or maybe he wanted to give the former Yankee a chance to redeem himself.

He might have been even trying to send a message to Dave Dombrowski that Coke simply doesn’t have what it takes to be on the team anymore. Whatever the reasoning, it proved to be the wrong move.

For any situational lefty, last night’s situation was perfect. Just not for Coke.

Coke hasn’t been good, the game was on the line and there were at least three right-handed relievers in the pen – all of which get lefties out better than the guy who gave up the hit.

Fans are fed up. That’s obvious. Something better be done soon to rectify the problem. Whether it’s Coke getting better or the team finding another option, it better happen soon. Otherwise, Coke will feel the wrath that Inge felt. That’s something that I don’t wish on anybody.

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What do you think?