DETROIT -- Now that the Tigers have wrapped up contracts with their arbitration-eligible players, they took a big step Monday toward finishing contracts for the rest of the roster. Reliever turned starter Phil Coke was one of eight previously unsigned players to agree to terms on one-year contracts, the team announced.
The other seven players were prospects, including right-handed pitchers Lester Oliveros, Jose Ortega and Brayan Villareal, along with left-handers Duane Below and Charlie Furbush, infielder Audy Ciriaco and first baseman/outfielder Ryan Strieby.
The 28-year-old Coke completed his second full Major League season last year, going 7-5 with a 3.76 ERA and two saves in 74 games. All of them were relief appearances except for his start on the final day of the season, once the Tigers announced their plans to move him into the rotation for 2011. A full season would make him eligible for arbitration next winter, and a successful season as a starter would put him in line for a significant raise. Coke made $425,000 last year.
Of the other seven, Furbush and Strieby go into the season with seemingly the best chance of cracking the Major League roster next year. The 25-year-old Strieby has missed parts of the last two seasons with hand and wrist injuries, batting .245 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs in 76 games last year, but has potential as a right-handed slugging bat.
Furbush, meanwhile, rocketed through Detroit's farm system in 2010 in his second season back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Combine his stats from Class A Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, and he went 8-9 with a 4.25 ERA and 183 strikeouts -- second best in the Minors -- over 159 innings.
The salaries agreed upon are for Major League contracts, meaning they won't take effect if they're not on the club. The players will receive a prorated portion for as long as they're in the big leagues.
The Tigers now have 25 members of their 40-man roster under contract. Teams and players not up for arbitration or free agency can negotiate until early March, after which the team can renew their contracts.