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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is this it for Phil Coke?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 3:29 PM

In this week’s edition of the blog, I’ll take a look at Phil Coke, who was sent down to the minors following Tuesday’s loss to the Minnesota Twins. Though Coke has been a household name for more than a few years in Detroit, this move had been coming for quite some time now.

He was the hero in last year’s ALCS. Jose Valverde was falling faster than a sinking ship, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland needed someone reliable in the ninth inning. Phil Coke became that man. He was an impetus behind the series victory over the Yankees and everybody seemed to be jumping on the Phil Coke bandwagon.

This year’s been a different story, and Tuesday night was just a culmination of his season-long struggles. He was called into the game in the top of the fifth inning with the bases loaded with only one task — get left-hander Justin Morneau out. As you can guess, Morneau cranked a two-RBI double that moved the game from a manageable 3-1 deficit to 5-1.

After the game, Leyland was insistent that Coke will be back when rosters expand on Sept. 1. He said that Coke is going down because it’s “a good opportunity for him to go down there and do a little better job of staying out of the middle of the plate.”

Considering Coke has a 5.00 ERA this season, he’s done more than just struggle to keep the ball off the middle of the plate. He just hasn’t seemed to have it this year, whatever it may be.

Though Leyland is insistent that Coke will be back when rosters expand, one has to question if that’s really in the cards? Also, his veteran status could play for or against his ability to make it back.

First and foremost, his presence in the younger-than-normal bullpen will be more than beneficial down the stretch if he does return. He’s been around the block — more than a few times actually — and his clutch performance in the 2012 playoffs isn’t easy to forget.

Unfortunately though, he wouldn’t be the first veteran pitcher to be sent down to the minors and sort of fizzle out. Leyland thinks that won’t be the case though.

“You have to understand the purpose that you’re going down there so you can get accomplished what we’re trying to get accomplished and I think Cokey will,” he said following Tuesday’s loss.

Coke’s prior success wasn’t solely talent-based — it was an attitude. When he was on the mound, you felt confident that he’d get the outs. That hasn’t been here recently. But if this trip helps him find the spunk he once had, well, the Tigers will be all the better for it come the post season.

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