Will Phil Coke be a Detroit Tiger come Opening Day?


Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The day is finally here.  Today, Detroit Tigers pitchers and catchers officially report to Lakeland, Fla. for spring training followed by the rest of the camp invitees reporting on Friday.

Some players have already started working out in Lakeland, which is great.  Among those players was Justin Verlander, who threw off of a mound for the first time since his surgery this winter.

Potential bullpen arms, Phil Coke and Duane Below, also have been working out at the facility in Lakeland, which is great news for two guys who are fighting for a spot in the bullpen.

Heading into spring training, the building blocks  for the Tigers’ bullpen include: Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon, Al Alburquerque and  Joba Chamberlain.  Of course, injuries and poor performances that weren’t expected by the Tigers’ brass could change that.

So, four of the seven spots are likely to be filled by those guys, who are all right-handers. Out of the four potential left-handed pitchers (Coke, Below, Casey Crosby and Ian Krol), I expect the Tigers to carry two of those guys come Opening Day.

The Tigers recently announced that Crosby will be converted into a bullpen pitcher where he can help the Tigers in 2014.  Crosby has been a starter his whole career thus far, including three spot starts in 2012 for the big club.

In 2013, Crosby had a 9.52 K/9 which can translate well for the left-hander as he moves to his new role.  The Tigers didn’t make a late bullpen signing this winter like many would have hoped.  Instead, they looked internally at Crosby.

Phil Coke has pitched in every role for the Tigers, from Jim Leyland experimenting with him as the Tigers’ fifth starter or a specialist out the the bullpen.

Coke’s contract isn’t guaranteed, so the Tigers can wash their hands with Coke whenever they please.

With Crosby changing his role in the organization, I like him and Krol to take those two left-hander spots with Luke Putkonen receiving the final spot in the bullpen (Corey Knebel will be right on his heels during the season).

Krol was one of the pieces the Tigers received in the Doug Fister trade.  In 2013, Krol posted a 3.95 ERA and a 7.24 K/9 for the Nationals.

Similar to the Brennan Boesch situation in 2013, I see the Tigers cutting ties with Coke, especially with his biggest supporter no longer managing the club.  Coke’s ERA sky-rocketed to 5.40 in 2013.

Coke’s best season in Detroit was back in 2010, where he posted a respectable 3.76 ERA.  Krol projects to have a similar season in 2014.

Coke has digressed as a Tiger and a rough start to spring training could end his time in Detroit.

The candidates for the left-handed pitching spots in the bullpen don’t blow you away.  With that said, the Tigers need production from those players, and Crosby and Krol look like the best fit to do so.