Tigers Move Phil Coke to Relief, Tab Rookie as Replacement

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Last night, Phil Coke was beaten to a pulp by the re-hot New York Mets. His record fell to 1-8 this year and while he has pitched in some bad luck this season, his last three starts have produced increasingly poor results.

This morning, Tigers manager Jim Leyland made the move that many fans had been calling for; Coke will be moving back into the bullpen.

Coke’s rotation spot comes up again on Monday in Anaheim, and a left hander will make the start. But unlike the last time Coke was out of the rotation (that one due to injury), it won’t be Andy Oliver getting the call. Fellow rookie Charlie Furbush, whom excelled as a starter in the minor leagues, will move into the rotation with the Tigers and make his first big league start on that day.

Though he’s worked exclusively out of the bullpen with the big club, 68 of Furbush’s 71 career minor league appearances came as a starter. Furbush was leading the International League in strikeouts when he was recalled in late May and has posted a 2.49 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 21.2 innings of big league relief work with the Tigers.

Coke, who had a minor league track record as a starter of his own coming into the year, had mad only one major league start before this season, and tht came on the season’s final day last year. Coke was a stabilizing force as the primary southpaw for the Tigers last year, and pitched very well in the same role with the Yankees two seasons ago.

In Coke’s last three outings, he has allowed 22 hits and 11 walks in only 13.2 innings, good for a WHIP of 2.41. He has fanned only four batters in that span and allowed 16 earned runs.

With Daniel Schlereth having been demoted to Toledo last night and Coke having thrown 79 pitches in that game, David Purcey will be the only available left hander for at least the next couple of days. Furbush could be used in relief if needed, but I’m sure the Tigers would prefer to have him fully rested for his first start next week.

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