There’s been plenty of talk about the Detroit Tigers and their closing pitcher situation. After choosing not to resign Jose Valverde, the team finds themselves in the difficult position of naming a new closer. Minor league prospect Bruce Rondon has been the assumed starter due to the team’s commitment and positive comments about him. What wasn’t known until this weekend was what the team’s backup plan is if Rondon’s MLB debut doesn’t turn out stellar.
At Tigerfest, the team discussed Rondon in passing and chose to declare him the leading candidate for the job. I have expressed my confidence in Rondon here before and continue to believe he will be the closer for the Tigers in 2013. Manager Jim Leyland discussed three other closer potentials and ruled two of them out.
Leyland discussed Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel and mentioned reasons why they won’t be closing games for the Tigers. Then Leyland informed fans and the media that Phil Coke will be the backup plan for Rondon going into the 2013 season.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who watched the 2012 MLB Playoffs. Coke earned the nickname “Coke Zero” after going the majority of the playoffs without allowing an earned run. Coke finished the 2012 playoffs with a 0-1 record, two saves, two holds, a 0.75 WHIP and a 0.84 ERA. The normal lefty specialist struck out 13 batters and gave up only two walks and one earned run.
Coke has served as a part time closer several times in his career. He posts a career 17-20 record with six saves. Coke has, however, blown 10 games over his career. Tiger fans will be hoping that Coke can regain the 2012 postseason magic if called upon to close games in 2013.
If somehow Coke becomes the everyday closer for the Tigers, it would increase the return on one of the Tigers biggest trades in team history. Coke was one of three players acquired in a three team trade that saw Curtis Granderson no longer a Tiger. The other two players the Tigers acquired were Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson. Pretty good return in the long run.