10/14/2013 6:56 P.M. ET
Coke looking to have an impact on Tigers
By Jason Beck, T.R. Sullivan, Alden Gonzalez and Bobby Nightengale / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Phil Coke wondered if he was done, he now admits. He wasn't worried just about the postseason but next season as well, since the irritation in his elbow wouldn't go away.
"I was pretty freaked out," Coke said on Monday afternoon, "because I didn't know what was going on. I've had issues here and there within my body where I know what's manageable and what's not manageable. It was such an unknown. I really had no idea what I had done to my arm, to have the reactions I was getting out of it."
Instead he's back in time to potentially have an impact on another postseason series for the Tigers. He did not enter Game 2 on Sunday night at Fenway Park aside from warming up in the bullpen as David Ortiz belted a grand slam off closer Joaquin Benoit.
Ortiz is 2-for-18 with four strikeouts against Coke, though Ortiz got him for a go-ahead single on June 20 at Comerica Park and sent a fly ball to deep right field against him at Fenway on Sept. 3.
Because of the amount of time Coke has missed, manager Jim Leyland opted to go with Benoit. Coke doesn't take issue with it, and won't suggest that he expected the chance.
"I expect to get the ball when it's given to me. No other time," he said. "I haven't thought of it any other way."
That said, he's hoping for an opportunity this postseason.
"Everybody knows that I want to be in the game, and I want to do everything I can to get the job done," he said. "I didn't really have a phenomenal season this year, and that's all the more reason for me to want to get in these games and show that I'm not just a one-hit wonder. I really know what I'm doing. I have something to prove."
Coke wants to prove that he can command his pitches again and retire left-handed hitters, at least improve on the .293 average he allowed from that side in the regular season. With his elbow no longer an issue, he can better finish his pitches and have a better ability to spot them.
"My arm felt really good the whole time [I was in rehab]," he said. "The rest that I received between [the series in] Minnesota and here, before leaving for [Florida during] the ALDS, was key."
Asked what has worked for him, Coke shrugged.
"Close your eyes and let it go, and pray," he said. "I don't know why I've been as successful against Ortiz as I have, but I take it very seriously, and I enjoy myself when I'm working."
Leyland shoulders responsibility for Ortiz slam
DETROIT -- Manager Jim Leyland admitted that he made a "mistake" on Sunday night after he brought in closer Joaquin Benoit to face Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park.
Benoit, trying to protect a four-run lead, entered the game with two outs and the bases loaded. Leyland said that he should have specifically reminded Benoit that it would have been "OK" to walk Ortiz, even if it meant forcing in a run.
"Last night I made a mistake that I take full responsibility for," Leyland said on Monday before the Tigers worked out at Comerica Park in advance of Tuesday's Game 3, at 4 p.m. ET on FOX. "I should have just reminded him that we didn't want Ortiz to really beat us. He tried to make a great pitch. He tried to get it low and away out of the strike zone, but he didn't get it there. We were going to try to get him to swing at a ball if we could. And I should have reminded him about that, and I did not."
Benoit threw a changeup that he wanted low and away, but the pitch got too much of the plate, and Ortiz hit a grand slam to tie the score before the Red Sox walked off with a 6-5 win in the ninth.
"We talked before the series about that. David is one of those guys [who was] born for those magic moments, we know that," Leyland said. "We were trying to avoid that, and Benny tried to make the pitch, he just didn't get it there. He just didn't execute the pitch.
"He attacks the hitters. He tried to attack him with a ball that was going to be out of the strike zone. and it was one of those changeups that didn't go down and away, it just stayed there."
Benoit said that he won't have any problem putting the blown save behind him.
"Do you remember what happened last night?" Benoit said. "I don't know. It's a part of baseball. You win and you lose. Tough times come and go. It's not my first rodeo.
"Last night I tried to throw a pitch to make him chase. I'm not perfect. I tried to make him swing and miss. I threw it down the middle, he swung, and he hit it good."
This is Benoit's first season as a closer, and Sunday's blown save was only his third. He was 24-for-26 in save opportunities during the regular season and is now 3-for-4 in the playoffs.
Leyland is not concerned about Benoit bouncing back from this one.
"No, not at all," Leyland said. "No, I think that, first of all, it was a tough save. In reality, I've been asking a lot out of him, probably a little too much in a couple of situations. He's doing fine. It's just not that easy. … That's why these teams are in the postseason, it gets a little bit tougher."
Sore Torii says he's good to go
DETROIT -- Outfielder Torii Hunter was sore all over on Monday, one day after taking a frightful tumble into the Boston bullpen trying to make a leaping catch of David Ortiz's grand slam in the eighth inning of the Tigers' 6-5 loss in Game 2.
But Hunter will be ready to go on Tuesday for Game 3 at Comerica Park on FOX at 4 p.m. ET, manning right field and batting second against Red Sox starter John Lackey.
"I'm a little stiff," Hunter said after reporting for Monday's optional workout. "I feel like I played in a football game. I woke up a little sore and felt like Fred Sanford, but I'm all right."
Hunter just missed catching Ortiz's drive as he leaped against and over the wall, and bloodied the back of his head after landing on it.
"It looked pretty nasty," he said. "I was trying to do whatever it takes to keep the ball from going out of the ballpark. I lost my breath. They told me I landed on my head and I was a little groggy, but I really didn't feel it until today."
Monday's off-day gave Hunter some extra time to recover. Asked if he would have been able to play on Monday had there been a game, he replied with the age-old rhetorical question about what a bear does in the woods.
"Well, maybe not a polar bear," he said.
Dirks to return to lineup for Game 3
DETROIT -- Manager Jim Leyland is turning to Andy Dirks to provide an impact at the bottom of the lineup. Although Dirks has been slumping, he will start in left field for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX.
Dirks ended the regular season on a 2-for-18 skid and went 0-for-3 in his lone postseason start, in Game 1 of the AL Division Series, against Oakland. He entered Game 4 of the ALDS as a pinch-runner and scored twice, drawing a walk in his only plate appearance.
"I think I am going to play Dirks tomorrow night," Leyland said on Monday. "He's been away from it a little bit and maybe relaxed a little bit, and I'll probably play him in left field. But I won't hit him at the top of the order, probably down."
Dirks is 2-for-5 with a triple and a walk in his career against Boston's Game 3 starter, John Lackey. Dirks' return to the lineup will likely push out Don Kelly, who went 0-for-3 with a walk in Game 2 of the ALCS and is 2-for-6 lifetime against Lackey.
Meanwhile, Jhonny Peralta will get his second consecutive start at shortstop in Game 3. It will be his second start at the position with Justin Verlander on the mound after playing there in Game 5 of the ALDS.
In order to keep Peralta's bat in the lineup -- he is batting 9-for-20 with four extra-base hits and six RBIs this postseason -- the Tigers have been placing him in the infield behind their top fly-ball pitchers, Verlander and Max Scherzer. Only two ground balls and a pop fly went his way during Verlander's last start.
Trio of 1984 stars to make first pitches
DETROIT -- Tigers catching great Lance Parrish will step out from behind the plate and take the mound on Tuesday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, at 4 p.m. ET on FOX. He'll be the first member of a trio of 1984 World Series champions to try to bring them luck.
Lou Whitaker, the second baseman of that championship team and one of the best all-around second basemen of his time, is slated to throw out the first pitch prior to Game 4 on Wednesday night. Jack Morris, a three-time World Series winner and the ace of that 1984 staff, is expected to make the first pitch prior to Game 5, on Thursday.
For Parrish it'll be a return to the ballpark he called his office for three years as a coach on manager Alan Trammell's staff from 2003 to 2005. He returned for the 25th-anniversary celebration of the '84 team four years ago, but hasn't been seen often since.
The national anthem performances will feature some familiar faces, with the Four Tops, Motown legends and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
Verlander says Victorino sometimes looking to get hit
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander was asked how you keep from plunking Shane Victorino, and he couldn't help but laugh.
"I've seen some pitches that he got hit on that were strikes," Verlander said during Monday's optional workout at Comerica Park, one day before taking the ball for Game 3 of an American League Championship Series that's tied at 1.
"I don't think you can worry about that. I think just whoever is the home-plate umpire needs to be aware that he's up there. Anything on the inner half, occasionally he's looking to get hit. He's up there, he's right on top of the plate. And his arms are over the batter's box and over part of the plate. If he doesn't get out of the way, there could be an occasion that it could be a strike and it actually hits him."
A big reason the Red Sox were able to get past the Rays in the AL Division Series was because Jacoby Ellsbury and Victorino were consistently getting on base at the top of the order. In seven playoff games, the No. 2-hitting Victorino has seven hits in 21 at-bats and has a .462 on-base percentage thanks in large part to a Major League-record five hit-by-pitches in these playoffs.
Victorino, a switch-hitter, recently started batting right-handed against right-handed pitchers. He crowds the plate, and he's usually willing to absorb a pitch to his left arm -- like Max Scherzer's fastball in Sunday's first inning.
"Do I love getting hit? Heck, no," Victorino said. "It starts to hurt. But I understand situations. These guys are just trying to make their pitches. They're trying to pitch in. And sometimes I get hit. I don't look at it any differently. But, you know, the little things like that, on-base percentage, a guy like me, that's what I get paid to do. That's what I'm supposed to do, is be on base."
Jason Beck, T.R. Sullivan and Alden Gonzalez are reporters for MLB.com. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.