We're continuing our previewing of the Detroit Tigers player by player. Expect much of the bullpen and the bench players to be doubled up a bit during the final week before the season, but we'll goone a day until then, by uniform numbers. I reserve the right to go out of order either on purpose or by accident. And now it's on to the bullpen. ...
In 2011, Phil Coke was given a chance at the rotation. Things were actually going well enough for him when, in late May, he slipped and suffered an injury. When he came back, he struggled mightily on the mound before eventually losing his spot in the rotation. It took a few speed bumps in the bullpen before he finally put things back together and became an effective pitcher for the rest of the season.
As a reliever, Coke appeared in 34 games, pitched 34 innings and had an ERA of 3.71. He struck out batters at a much higher pace, but suffered through a bit of BABIP bad luck, too. Although you sometimes can get into the rut of thinking of lefties as specialists, Coke obviously has the ability to pitch to batters on either side of the plate. Still, he has been especially tough on lefties, holding them to a .584 OPS in 2011, which is slightly better than the .605 career rate. Right-handers hit better and for slightly more power against him. So he might be better with wise deployment.
I do not see any sweeping changes in store for this season. I'll say 3.70 ERA. A few wins, a few losses, and much pointing at fly balls in the middle.