Is Detroit's Coke the real thing?

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
7:23
PM ET
My favorite thing about spring training? I mean, when I'm not actually there? Trying to guess who's going to grab those No. 5-starter slots. Speaking of which, here's Dave Cameron on the Tigers:
    Last week, we talked about Kyle Farnsworth, and I applauded the Royals for giving him a chance to see what he can do as a starting pitcher. Kansas City isn’t the only AL Central team considering trying a relief pitcher in the rotation, however, as Jason Beck reports that the Tigers may do the same with newly acquired Phil Coke.

    Coke was a starter in the minors, and had a decent amount of success, so Detroit isn’t entirely throwing spaghetti at the wall here. However, unlike Farnsworth, Coke just doesn’t seem to have a starter’s repertoire.

    --snip--

    Unless the Tigers know something about the development of Coke’s change-up, this doesn’t seem like a very good use of resources. Coke is terrific against left-handers, but moving him into a starting role will guarantee that he won’t get to face many of those. I wouldn’t expect this experiment to go very well or last very long. Coke belongs in the bullpen, where his stuff can be leveraged against good left-handed bats, and I’d guess that the Tigers will quickly come to the same conclusion.

As Cameron points out, Coke's been all fastball/slider as a reliever and he's struggled against right-handed hitters while dominating the lefties. Perfectly suited for relief work but ill-suited for starting, right?

Well, maybe not. As one commenter points out, it's instructive to look at the sample sizes. As a starter (mostly) in the minors, Coke pitched 464 innings and did just fine against right-handed hitters. As a reliever in the majors, he's pitched only 75 innings and faced 127 righties. Repertoire aside, it's probably too early to give up on a pitcher with a good minor-league track record who throws in the low 90s.

Particularly considering that -- as another commenter notes -- Coke's competition for the No. 5 slot would seem to be Armando Galarraga and Nate Robertson.

Maybe it won't work. I don't mean to suggest that Coke's some great undiscovered talent. Shoot, he turns 28 this summer and he's won exactly five games in the majors. But it might work. And if it doesn't, he can always resume his career as a LOOGY.

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