08/29/12 8:00 PM ET
Coke trying to find right stuff against lefties
By Vinnie Duber / MLB.com
The latest chapter in a rough patch for Coke came on Tuesday night against the Royals. Fresh off tying the game at 8 in the eighth, Leyland sent Coke to the mound with two outs and a runner at second in the bottom of the inning to face the left-handed hitting Mike Moustakas.
Coke threw a first-pitch strike and then surrendered a go-ahead double down the first-base line that proved to be the game-winning hit. Coke didn't take the loss -- and he hasn't been tagged with one since June 12 against the Cubs -- but he allowed another inherited runner to score, something he's done quite a bit since calendar changed to August.
"The fact is that he's struggled, but certainly I felt very comfortable that he could get Moustakas out," Leyland said. "He's got to get one left-handed hitter out for the third out. If he can't do that, we've got problems -- we don't have problems, him and I, I mean we've got problems, the team. That's your responsibility. He didn't get a left-hander out last night in a big situation.
"He's had a really hot and cold year, and probably too much of it has been cold. He's just not making good pitches."
The last month has been freezing for Coke. Since July 30, he's pitched in 10 games -- just 6 2/3 innings -- but his ERA is a sky-high 8.10. He's allowed six runs on 15 hits including a pair of home runs. Of the nine runners he's inherited, five have scored.
"Coke is a late left-handed reliever that's got to get left-handed hitters out. If he doesn't, you do two things: You either use somebody else or you probably don't win that game," Leyland said. "But that's his responsibility. He's our late left guy. You might have to go with some other options. I can't disagree with that."
Leyland added, though, that those options don't include swapping Coke out for a player from the Minor Leagues.
"We don't have anybody, certainly down in Toledo, as a left-handed reliever, to my knowledge, that's better than Phil Coke. Phil Coke's been a pretty credible reliever in the big leagues for quite a while. That's just the way it goes," Leyland said. "An option is not an option."
Jackson on point following Tigers' off-days
KANSAS CITY -- Just as Jim Leyland had predicted, Austin Jackson had a big game following the Tigers' off-day.
The center fielder was on base five times in Tuesday's 9-8 loss to the Royals. Jackson was 3-for-3 with a pair of walks and three runs scored.
"He's always real good after a day off," Leyland repeated several times before Tuesday's series opener and then again after the contest.
Jackson has indeed had success following a day off -- be it for the team or just personally. In games following off-days this season, he's batting .383 with six doubles, two home runs, 10 walks, 11 RBIs and 13 runs scored.
Tuesday's performance followed a series against the Angels in which Jackson didn't even reach base. He went 0-for-13 with three strikeouts and grounded into a double play.
"It's just good to start getting on base, try to help win ballgames by getting in scoring position," Jackson said. "I haven't been doing the best at that, but it felt good to get on there [Tuesday]."
Jackson spoke of the benefits of getting a daylong break from the game.
"You get to get away from it for a little bit, clear your mind and rest your legs a little bit and recover and come back and feel refreshed," Jackson said. "Taking a little mental break for a day, it's good for your body as well as your mind."
Fister in rotation, Smyly assigned to bullpen
KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers officially named right-hander Doug Fister as their starter for Friday's game against the White Sox.
Fister missed his last scheduled start with a groin injury sustained on Aug. 19. He threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and said he was feeling good.
Drew Smyly, who filled in for Fister on Saturday against the Angels, will pitch in a bullpen role starting Wednesday night against the Royals, according to manager Jim Leyland. When asked if that's a role Smyly will stay in the rest of the season, Leyland said that other circumstances could dictate that situation, particularly focusing on potential rainouts.
"That depends," Leyland said. "That depends on what happens with the weather, if you need another starter. You'll probably have some additional help here shortly [when rosters expand on Saturday] in the bullpen. Smyly will be in the bullpen, but if you needed a sixth starter for some reason, he would certainly, I think, be a candidate. But I can't predict what's going to happen with the weather."
Castellanos among prospects on AFL roster
KANSAS CITY -- The rosters for the Arizona Fall League were announced on Wednesday. Seven Tigers farmhands, including top prospect Nick Castellanos, will be joining the 2012 Mesa Solar Sox.
Castellanos, ranked as Detroit's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, has slowed down this month with Double-A Erie after a stellar start to the season. In 25 games in August, he's hit .200 with four doubles, a home run and five RBIs. Castellanos is in the process of transitioning from third base to the outfield, and time in the fall league should provide him with more outfield experience.
Joining Castellanos in Mesa will be catcher James McCann, infielder Aaron Westlake and pitchers Tyler Clark, Matt Hoffman, Michael Morrison and Luke Putkonen.
The six-team Arizona Fall League is in its 20th anniversary season. The teams play in Cactus League stadiums, with the Solar Sox making their home at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs.
The Solar Sox roster is made up of players from the Minor League systems of the Tigers, Astros, Cubs, Dodgers and Orioles. The season begins Oct. 9.
Tigers first-base coach Tom Brookens will miss the final two games of the series in Kansas City for personal reasons. Infield coach Rafael Belliard will take over in the first-base coaching box, and Brookens will return to the team on Friday in Detroit.
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler continued to torment Justin Verlander in Tuesday night's game, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI singles and an intentional walk off the Tigers' ace. Butler is hitting .367 in his career against Verlander, the highest batting average among the 25 players with 40 or more at-bats against the right-hander.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.