The Detroit Tigers called up relief pitcher Jose Ortega from Triple-A Toledo after reliever Phil Coke was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Considering how well Ortega is pitching in his first action in Major League Baseball this season, is it possible the Tigers will keep him in the bullpen even when Coke is able to return?
The 24-year-old impressed everyone watching his 2013 Major League debut on May 1 against the Minnesota Twins, including Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
“[On Wednesday] he made an awful good impression,” Leyland said, according to Tigers.com. “You don’t want to judge him way too quick. Hopefully, he’s made a lot of progress. He’ll go down in the bullpen and we’ll see how he performs.”
Ortega followed up that two-strikeout, one-inning performance with another outstanding appearance Thursday against the Houston Astros. The right-hander struck out three batters in back-to-back three up, three down innings.
The Venezuela native has tossed 39 pitches, struck out five batters and has yet to surrender a run in three innings in the big leagues. The fact that he posted a 1-0 record with 19 strikeouts in 14 scoreless innings in the minors this year proves that what he has been able to accomplish is no fluke.
Leyland has always thought Ortega was a good pitcher with “electric stuff”. He enjoyed watching the pitcher dominate in the minors, and he always hoped it would transition well into the big leagues. Even though Ortega gave up one earned run on three hits in 2 2/3 innings last season, Leyland still knew that he had potential.
Coke is 0-3 with an 8.31 earned run average in 8 2/3 innings this season. Leyland has to consider the strong possibility that Ortega will remain in the bullpen even when Coke is healthy enough to be activated off the disabled list. It would simply be foolish to keep someone in the minors who has completely destroyed hitters in Triple-A, and then continued that success in the majors.