09/12/10 6:27 PM ET
Coke called to mound in Sunday's win
By Alex DiFilippo / MLB.com
Two days after being drilled by a pitch in Friday's 6-3 loss against the Orioles, Coke told the skipper he was ready to go if needed. With the Tigers holding a four-run lead in the ninth inning after a gem by starter Justin Verlander, Leyland obliged Coke's wishes.
"I always want the ball," Coke said. "I don't care if I'm missing a limb, I want the ball. If I'm able to go out there and throw the ball over the plate and get the job done, then that's what I'm here for. That's my job. I want to be effective and able to do my job. Luckily, I was given the opportunity."
Coke allowed a leadoff walk, but then forced Adam Jones to hit into a double play. He ended the game by striking out Felix Pie with a nasty slider. And as soon as home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins rang up Pie, Coke howled out a scream that seemed so loud it could be heard in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
"I was really fired up," Coke said. "I was really, really fired up, especially after stinking the other night. I got hit, it hurt and I was upset."
As for Valverde, Leyland utilized the team's off-day on Monday to help his closer recover from tenderness in his pitching elbow. Valverde said he expects to be ready to go on Tuesday when the Tigers travel to Texas.
With the Detroit 13 1/2 games behind in the American League Central race, Leyland doesn't see any reason to send any of his players out if they aren't healthy. He's already made his season assessment of both pitchers, too.
The skipper said he's going to consider using Coke as a starter next season to add a lefty to the rotation, which was all right-handed for most of the year.
For Valverde, Leyland used one word to describe the big right-hander -- tremendous. Valverde is 2-4 with 25 saves in 57 appearances with only two blown saves.
"I need him," Leyland said of his All-Star closer. "We've been short. I'm not going to take any chances for him. We are looking for 100 percent and totally free of injury before we get him back out there."
Porcello questionable for Wednesday start
DETROIT -- Rick Porcello is scheduled to start for the Tigers on Wednesday in Texas. But after Sunday's 6-2 win over the Orioles, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Porcello's status is still up in the air.
The 21-year-old right-hander injured a tendon in the index finger of his pitching hand during his previous start on Thursday, where he went eight innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits.
"I don't know the answer to that yet," Leyland said when asked if Porcello would make the start. "That's in limbo. ... We are pretty strapped with pitching lately. But that's the way it goes."
If Porcello can't go on Wednesday, Leyland said he'll either use starter Armando Galarraga or opt for a bullpen start from reliever Alfredo Figaro. With the team having off-days on Monday and Thursday, Leyland opted to skip Galarraga in the rotation, but he'd be the favorite to start if Porcello is scratched.
"I threw a curveball, it just felt like a twinge," Porcello said on Saturday. "It felt like I jammed my finger a little bit. But it's not anything to be concerned about."
Porcello (9-11) has won four consecutive games and has posted a 2.48 ERA in that span, while holding opposing hitters to a .158 batting average.
Raburn, Kelly gives Leyland options
DETROIT -- Many believe the role of a utility man is one of the hardest in baseball. Bouncing in and out of the lineup on a regular basis and not being able to get into any kind of groove is a lot to ask of any player.
But Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly have been up to the challenge for the Tigers this season. Both have seen time at practically every position this year, minus pitcher, catcher and shortstop. And because Raburn is a right-handed batter, and Kelly a lefty, Leyland has been able to use both players to garner favorable matchups against opposing pitchers.
In Sunday's 6-2 comeback victory over the Orioles, Raburn was 1-for-4 and scored a run, while Kelly went hitless in three at-bats.
After hitting .291 with 15 home runs last season, Raburn started off the year very slow from the plate. The season-ending ankle injury to Magglio Ordonez has opened the door to more playing time for Raburn, and he's picked up his play as a result. He was hitting .208 entering the All-Star break, but has upped his average to .271 since then.
"Raburn is a good player and he's showing that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He was way down in average early on. He's grinded it out and he's got some more playing time. He's earned more playing time. The better you play the more you play. He's a pretty good looking player."
Kelly, on the other hand, hasn't seen quite the success from the plate this season, but his contributions defensively have impressed Leyland. Kelly is hitting .245 with six homers and 22 RBIs.
"I think Donny is a perfect 25th guy," Leyland said. "You can put him anywhere. He's got some big hits and he's shown he can swing the bats a little bit. He's really a nice fit for a left-handed hitter. Having a left-handed hitter as an extra guy is pretty valuable, particularly if he can play anywhere. He's done a great job. Him and Raburn have really done a great job."
Because both players can play so many different positions, it makes it difficult to take the amount of defensive reps as the regulars for that position. However, Raburn said being able to bounce around the field in different positions keeps things interesting, although it's a challenge.
"It gives you more opportunities to get into the game," Raburn said. "It gives them a lot of flexibility because they can count on a couple guys to fill in a couple different spots instead of just backup infielder and a backup outfielder. [Leyland] has the luxury of having both at the same time. Whatever keeps us up here, that's what we are planning on doing."
Leyland eyes big bat for next season
DETROIT -- With the season winding down and the Tigers out of the playoff picture, manager Jim Leyland is in the process of evaluating young players. He's also making a list of additions the Tigers could potentially make in the offseason.
Ideally, Leyland would like to see the club pick up another big bat to help drive in runs. Detroit sits in third place in the American League with 1,342 hits entering Sunday, yet the club has only driven in 649 runs, good for eighth place in the AL.
"We need another solid RBI guy," Leyland said. "You hope that maturity of some kids in the not-too-distant future will help that some. But we need another bat. That would help us."
The season-ending ankle injury to Magglio Ordonez left the Tigers short in the run-knocking-in category. Before his injury, he was slugging .303 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs in 84 games for the Tigers.
Ordonez will be a free agent in the offseason, as he was unable to meet the games and at-bat incentives that would have extended his contract.
If Ordonez was still in the lineup, Leyland said he thinks this season would have looked much differently. Nonetheless, if the Tigers decide not to exercise his $15 million option for next year, a big bat is certainly on Leyland's wish list.
"You are never really satisfied," Leyland said. "You never can get enough runs."
Carlos Guillen was in the Tigers' clubhouse Sunday morning and discussed his season-ending knee surgery with reporters. Dr. Russ Warren will handle the procedure on Friday in New York that is designed to scope out and clean his knee. He said having the surgery now will hopefully have him ready for Spring Training. As for where he'd like to play next season, he's open to suggestions. "I like playing baseball." Guillen said. "It doesn't matter where. Things happen. It could be the DH. I'd be OK with any position. I just want to stay healthy." ... Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been careful with how much he plays Austin Jackson this season. The American League Rookie of the Year hopeful had Sunday afternoon off to utilize the club's off-day on Monday. "It's a long grind," Leyland said. "He runs them down there every night. He runs the bases almost every night. I just think you've got a little spurt here where you have a day off tomorrow, so let's give the guy a little blow. That's part of managing. You pick your spots." ... Johnny Damon also received a day off on Sunday afternoon. ... The Tigers awarded more than 200 complimentary tickets to students and family members as part of the "Michigan Reads" program through the Michigan Educational Association on Sunday. The Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons have all agreed to offer incentives to students for reading at least 10 books between June 14 and Aug. 22. Select students were also honored during a pregame ceremony.
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.