Former Detroit Tigers reliever Phil Coke wants to make an MLB comeback, and has developed a knuckleball. Should the Tigers consider bringing him back?
After spending a year in Japan, former Detroit Tigers reliever Phil Coke said he wants to make a comeback. The 35 year-old southpaw didn’t have his best season for the Orix Buffaloes, but is hoping his new-found knuckleball is enough to land him on a major-league roster.
Meanwhile, his old club is in the midst of a rebuild. The Tigers have a few veteran arms, but mainly young players. Their longest-tenured pitcher is Blaine Hardy, and he’s been in the league only for four seasons. The Tigers signed Travis Wood, but it’s uncertain if he’ll make the roster. The Tigers could use a veteran to help provide leadership, and mentor younger pitchers.
Coke has experience. He’s pitched for nine years in the majors. The type of experience the Tigers could use, but making the team is an uphill battle.
For starters, Coke is 35. Pitchers regress wildly the more years past 30 they age. He also hasn’t pitched a significant amount of innings since 2014 at the major-league level. And while he had a good 2016 in the minors, he was mediocre in the Japanese Pacific League. For Orix, Coke went 2-3 with a 4.56 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched.
Chances are his ERA will climb, especially if he makes a big league roster. But if he does, he’ll have to rely on his knuckleball heavily.
According to sources, its low spin-rate is intriguing multiple teams. The spin rate would lead to the wind influencing where it lands, creating an almost eephus-like pitch that would throw batters off.
If Coke does come back, he’ll have younger competition to deal with. Shane Greene has the closer slot locked down. Blaine Hardy and Daniel Stumpf are fellow left-handers who should make the roster. Travis Wood is also trying to make the team.
Coke could theoretically make the roster as a specialist, but he’ll need to impress all throughout spring camp, and the first month of the season, if he wants to make the back end of the bullpen.
Regardless, it will be intriguing to watch if he makes the bullpen for someone. The Tigers could use a veteran in the bullpen, and if Coke’s knuckleball is good, he may be a surprise for 2018.