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Tigers Hope Things Go Better with Coke

In 3 seasons of Major League Baseball, and 158 appearances, Phil Coke has 1 start.  But, this year, the Detroit Tigers are hoping to put some fizz back into their starting rotation by moving Coke from the bullpen to the starting rotation.

COKE ZERO: Wacky Phil Coke hopes to put a bunch of zeros on the board this year for the Tigers.

COKE ZERO: Wacky Phil Coke hopes to put a bunch of zeros on the board this year for the Tigers.

Jim Leyland’s move is part of the Tigers attempt to refurbish a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League last year with a disappointing combined 4.46 ERA.  The Tigers sent Jeremy Bonderman, Armando Galarraga, and Dontrelle Willis out the door.  The trio started 61 games last season and won only 13 of them.

Coke, a 26th round selection of the Yankees in 2002, won 7 games and had a 3.76 ERA last year for Detroit.  His WHIP was 1.43 and he whiffed 53 in 64.2 innings of work.  Coke will join Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and Brad Penny as the Tigers starting five.

Starting is not entirely unknown to Phil Coke.  He was a starter throughout his minor league career and was only converted to a reliever midway through the 2008 season when he was still at Triple-A.  He has performed consistently out of the bullpen for the Tigers and Detroit clearly has confidence in him.  He pitched 4 strong innings against a Phillies split squad on Sunday that led to a 2-1 Detroit victory.

Coke’s biggest opponent to success just may be himself.  He’s the epitomy of a quirky left-hander and he’s a perfectionist with a snarl.  If he dwells on a bad outing and has to wait 5 days before getting a shot at redemption, it may eat at him.  “I don’t want to see him except on the days he pitches,” deadpanned Leyland.

2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Phil Coke –  We don’t see any issues with Coke moving to a starting role.  He will dial down his fastball from 94 to 91 in order to maintain more arm strength throughout a starting role, but other than that, we’ll see the same Phil Coke.  Detroit, however, does not present a stellar defense behind him either which isn’t going to help him out in his new role.  Coke is not a top of the line starter and there are concerns about his psyche.  He also is succeptible to the long ball having given up 1.5 homeruns per 9 innings in ’09.  We project Phil Coke to be a middling starter in 2011 with 10 wins and an ERA of 4.40 and WHIP at 1.45.

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