Coke came to the Tigers with Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, and Daniel Schelereth in trade for Curtis Granderson before the 2010 season. He was used heavily in 2010, making 74 appearances with a decent 3.76 ERA though a WHIP of 1.44 was concerning. In 2011 the Tigers tried Coke as a starter out of "desperation" to quote pitching coach Rick Knapp, as he was the only lefty in the rotation. The experiment ended after 14 starts. Back in his relief role, Coke's numbers stabilized.
In 2012 Phil was used exclusively in relief, with an impressive 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings but an inflated 1.65 WHIP. In the postseason, with the collapse of Jose Valverde, Coke was used often to close games and pitched very effectively. In nine innings against the Yankees and Giants, Coke allowed only five hits and one run while racking up 12 strikeouts.
Coke began 2013 as one of a number of options as closer. He earned a save in the first game, but blew a save in game two. His record stands at 0 wins and 5 losses, with an ERA of 5.00. His peripherals are similar to 2010 and 2011 with 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.8 walks per nine innings. But as the Tigers' bullpen has improved, his role has been reduced to being used against a left-handed hitter or two. He has performed better against lefties, but allowing a .279 batting average and a .382 slugging percentage was not sufficient for a team whose goal is a championship.
Coke faced two batters on Tuesday night and both reached base. But the timing of the decision was likely motivated by Coke earning five years of major league service on August 22. As of Thursday the Tigers could not option him without his consent.
Jim Leyland said after the game, "We will bring him back up. We want him to work on his command for these two weeks".
Jose Alvarez is familiar as he has made five spot starts for the Tigers this season. His numbers in Toledo have been outstanding in 20 starts, with an ERA of 2.79, WHIP of 1.07, and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He will likely be a left-handed specialist as was Coke, though he can also make an occasional start down the stretch to give the starters extra rest. Alvarez does have 43 appearances as a reliever in previous minor league seasons.