Phil Coke’s Tigers career has been a rollercoaster. After begin acquired by the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson trade, Coke has done everything the Tigers have asked him to do. In 2010 Coke thrived as the Tiger left-handed specialist and made even the toughest left-handed hitter look silly. In 2011, the Tigers decided to try him out as a starter, a role he struggled in until returning to his familiar left-handed specialist role in the bullpen. Coke even had a stint as the Tigers closer in the 2012 postseason after Jose Valverde lost his nerve.
Ironically it was that solid postseason performance in 2012 that would eventually become Phil Coke’s undoing.
Last season Phil Coke had a shot at becoming the teams closer but struggled in the role early prompting Leyland to adopt a closer by committee approach. The job eventually went to Joaquin Benoit and Coke was buried in the bullpen unable to even get left-handed hitters out anymore.
Yesterday against the Orioles, Coke gave up 3 runs during mop up duty helping the Oriole’s to make up a 6 run deficit making it necessary for Joe Nathan to eventually close the game. Coke walked one and allowed 3 hits in just 1/3 inning, nearly costing the Tigers their 4th straight win. Unacceptable for a team with world series expectations.
The Tigers can’t afford to give up any win much less one was that virtually in hand. Although Coke’s performance did not end up costing the Tigers the win, it did cause them to use other pitchers to finish the game. Using extra pitchers doesn’t matter much in the beginning of the season but during the stretch run it could be costly.
The Tigers should release Phil Coke immediately. His performance is a warning sign of things to come and if that sign is ignored it could end up costing the Tigers valuable games at the end of the season.