Tigers Notes: Phil Coke has revived career

In his last seven outings, Phil Coke has pitched 6 1/3 innings while allowing zero runs.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — Phil Coke has become a baseball Lazarus. The left-handed reliever’s career appeared to be all but dead with the Detroit Tigers after April, when he had a 8.10 ERA. That rose to 9.39 in May, and it was still a gaudy 6.56 after giving up three runs to the Minnesota Twins on June 14.

But since then, Coke has been about as good as it gets. In his last seven outings, Coke has pitched 6 1/3 innings while allowing zero runs. He’s allowed four hits, one walk and struck out six while getting the Tigers out of plenty of trouble and dropping his ERA to 5.16. Coke also got the credit for his first win of the season and first save in almost 15 months during the current stretch.

Coke is no longer yanking pitches into the dirt or leaving them high and hittable. His command is night-and-day better. How does Tigers manager Brad Ausmus explain that?

"He’s pitched well and it’s rolled into a confidence building," Ausmus said. "And any time a pitcher is confident, he is going to pitch better."

When asked for his own explanation after hearing his manager’s, Coke said, "I couldn’t say it any better myself than what Brad said. He’s got confidence in me. I’ve got confidence in me. And now, every time I pitch, something good happens instead of something terrible."

Coke kept the Tigers in Monday night’s game by coming on after a rare failure by setup man Joba Chamberlain. There were runners on first and second with nobody out, and Coke nearly got Alberto Callaspo to hit into a triple play. The Tigers settled for a double play, and Coke got Eric Sogard to ground out and end the threat.

It didn’t seem to matter that much at the time. Detroit was trailing, 4-1, going into the bottom of the eighth and showing little life offensively. But then Rajai Davis hit a walk-off grand slam to give the Tigers a 5-4 win in the ninth.

Coke has gone from coming in when the game has at least a four-run difference to pitching in critical spots.

"I’m just going out and doing my job," Coke said, "doing my thing. The only thing that’s changed is I feel physically better. The ball’s coming out of my hand better. I feel confident in what I’m doing to get the ball over the plate. I felt absolutely terrible not being able to locate the ball…It was like, where have you been, I’ve needed you for a while. And you abandoned me."

But his command is back and his results have been very good after that terrible start.

KROL UPATE:

Ausmus said left-handed reliever Ian Krol (left shoulder inflammation) likely will begin a rehabilitation assignment soon and could return from the 15-day disabled list as early as the July 8 game with the Los Angeles Dodgers in Detroit.

"He’s going to have to go on rehab regardless," Ausmus said.

Krol (4.32 ERA) has given up six homers in only 25 innings pitched, but has been effective many times. His 35 appearances are third on the team behind Al Alburquerque (40) and Chamberlain (37).

"I’m going to throw one more bullpen (Wednesday)," said Krol. "I feel good and the command’s there."

Krol said he’s no longer experiencing a dead arm, adding, "Everything’s good. The two bullpens went great with no pain."