Detroit Tigers: Phil Coke First In Closer Committee To Blow Save In 2013

By Thom Tsang
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it looks like the Detroit Tigers ‘game of musical chairs in the bullpen isn’t going to come to an end anytime soon.

Say what you will about manager Jim Leyland‘s dedication to ‘his guys’ and flying in the face of conventional (and statistical) wisdom, but was having Phil Coke — a reliever with a 4.00/1.65 ERA/WHIP over 54 innings in 2012 — taking the role as the team’s closer really going end up being a smooth ride?

Of course not, and on Wednesday, the Phil Coke Experience took its first bump on the road.

Coming on with a man on base in the ninth against the Minnesota Twins to protect a 2-1 lead, it only took three batters (flyout, single, two-run double) to flip the potential win from the Tigers into a Twins walk-off victory that sent their fans home happy.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected, of course. Given that Coke doesn’t exactly have dominating stuff (.262 career BAA, 7.05 K/9), he is going to be prone to being touched up from time to time, and this was just one of those cases.

That said, it also illustrates one issue that the Tigers still have to face — the fact that they don’t have a knockout closer in the ninth. Or at least, they’re not putting him in that role anyway.

Coke couldn’t find the strikeouts he needed on Wednesday, but it’s not like the team doesn’t have pitchers who can — namely, Al Alburquerque, who has struck out the only two batters he’s seen in 2013, and went into the year carrying a 13.66 K/9 over his career in the bigs.

How long before Leyland goes with convention wisdom and give the strikeout artist a crack? Where will the closer committee go next? Will he go against the grain and send Coke out there?

Leyland said prior to the season that anyone could be called on, but the team quickly found out in their first loss of the season that just anyone is sometimes not good enough.

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