Doesn’t it always happen this way? Team makes blockbuster trade, team gets throw-in player to even up deal, throw-in becomes best player in trade. While the Tigers wouldn’t mind him being a close second to Austin Jackson, Phil Coke needs to make an impact this year if the Tigers plan on doing anything late in the season.
Coke may be the answer to the fifth spot/lefty scenario. While Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson have the big contracts associated with their southpaw arms, Coke has the drive of a player looking for a big deal similar to his pitching competitors. His immediate impression on Leyland and Co. was also a solid one, as he made it clear from day one that he was willing to do whatever it takes to get a spot on a Major League roster.
If the Tigers do plan to make Coke a starter, the stretching out phase should begin immediately. If the Tigers were to break camp with only four legitimate starters (while waiting for Coke), the potential is there for the relievers to get overtaxed. An overexerted bullpen in April and May does not fit well for chances in September and beyond. I’ve always felt that spring training lasts too long for these players, but in Coke’s case, the amount of chances to take the mound may be a good thing.
Also to note: the Tigers may not be sounding the warning bell, but the players that have been thrown out on the field the first two games show that this team is looking for immediate impact players. Jackson and Sizemore will be under a heavy microscope during these few weeks, as will players like Bonderman and Robertson.