3/11/2014 2:45 P.M. ET
Coke crafting curveball as he tries to win job
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Phil Coke is pitching this spring, he said, like he's trying to earn a job. He is not pitching, he cautioned, with something to prove.
Whether there's a difference might be semantics.
"No, I don't feel like I have anything to prove to myself or anybody else," he said after his latest outing Tuesday. "I'm out there looking to earn a spot on the team just like everybody else. I know it's a little different, the more time you get in here and there or whatever, but I don't think about those things. I go out there and I'm working on executing pitches."
For the most part, he felt like he did that Tuesday, striking out two of the three left-handed Blue Jays he faced. He allowed a two-out double to the right-hander, Steve Tolleson, and fell behind on a 3-0 count to the next hitter, Anthony Gose, then recovered to put three consecutive fastballs by him.
Coke's fastball sat at 90-91 mph, according to the Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun. His final pitch registered at 93 as Gose swung and missed.
"I don't think I usually see 90-91 until the end of spring," Coke said, "so the fact that it's there right now, I just need to get the arm strength up just a little bit more to do what I want."
Manager Brad Ausmus said Coke threw better than his previous two outings, when he gave up three runs on six hits to the Cardinals and faced a bases-loaded, no-out jam against the Mets.
"There are times where his breaking ball, I think, gets a little big and the hitter reads it," Ausmus said. "But if he can tighten that up, I think it can be a tremendous asset to him. He can make it kind of a shorter breaking ball."
That breaking ball continues to be a question mark. He threw it on six of his 18 pitches in the inning, but none of the six went for strikes. He had two against leadoff man Dan Johnson that seemed to be close, but didn't get the call from plate umpire Greg Gibson. He fell behind on breaking balls to Josh Thole and Gose.
"I'm not seeing sharp, but I'm being told that it's sharp," Coke said. "That could be for any number of reasons. Based on the way it was finishing, I was freezing the hitters. I don't know if they were spitting on it or couldn't pull the trigger on it."
Coke believes he has pitched better than his stats this spring would suggest.
"When I'm asked to do something, like if they want me to pound in on a certain side of the plate, then that's what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm not going to shy away from it. So if I'm getting beat up because I'm doing what I'm told to do, hey, I'm getting beat up."
Aggressive Rajai protecting hand with oversized mitt
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rajai Davis runs the basepaths with either reckless abandon or the courage of a cat burglar, depending on your outlook. Either way, he runs them with what looks like an oven mitt on his left hand.
That's OK. He hears it all the time. He laughs about it, too.
"Yeah, it's good for baking," Davis said. "Baking on the bases."
It's a customized protective glove that keeps him from jamming a finger sliding into a bag, and it also gives him some padding over his hand and his wrist in case an infielder steps on his hand as he's sliding in. He has worn one since at least 2012 to protect his hands.
Other players, such as Yankees speedster Brett Gardner, have worn one after injuring fingers or wrists. Davis said he adopted it after he had a close call and saw someone else suffer a far worse fate.
"I watched a guy stealing and go in with his hand and break his finger," Davis said. "I saw that and said that's not going to happen to me. So I started wearing that."
The lack of fingers on the glove prevent him from jamming any of them when he slides. The length of it, which completes the oven mitt look, protects his wrist. The combination gives him some peace of mind being aggressive on the basepaths.
The last couple of years, Davis had a blue version that matched the blue on Toronto's jersey. Once he signed with Detroit as a free agent in December, the Tigers athletic training staff obtained the make and model on the mitt -- yes, it's an actual item -- then contacted the manufacturer to get a navy blue model.
"It's pretty protective," he said. "It's pretty good. It's not too hard. It's pliable. It gives. I mean, it's big, not like some of the other ones you have, though."
There is some regulation as to how long such a glove can be. Add too much padding, and it gives him an extra inch or two, or maybe more, to beat a tag. So a lot of the padding goes on top of the fingers, not beyond it.
"This one's official," he said with a big smile.
Miggy getting into rhythm with at-bats
LAKELAND, Fla. -- A day after Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs against the Cardinals in Jupiter, the two-time reigning American League MVP was back to work early in the morning in Lakeland, and back in the starting lineup. Of the three Tigers who started both games in Jupiter, he was the only one to start Tuesday against Toronto.
Even in the dog days of Spring Training, he's getting into a daily rhythm where he wants to get at-bats.
"I want to be sure I get 70-80 [plate appearances], so I can be the most ready I can," he said. "I want to be ready for the regular season -- physically, mentally, everything."
It wasn't just the home runs themselves Monday that suggested he's rounding into form, but the nature of them. He went opposite field on the first before sending the second out to straightaway center.
The homers were part of a 17-run outburst from a team that had scored 46 runs previously.
"It was good," he said. "It was half our [starting] lineup. We'll try to get the whole lineup going."
Cabrera finished 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout against the Blue Jays.
• The Tigers plan on taking advantage of the replay system for the first time, with it available Wednesday against the Yankees in Tampa, even though defensive coordinator Matt Martin and other members of the video crew will be in Kissimmee being trained on the system by MLB officials. Another member of the video crew will stay back to communicate with Ausmus on calls to potentially challenge.
• Shortstop Jose Iglesias reported improvement Tuesday in his shin splits, which have sidelined him for the past week and a half. Iglesias fielded grounders, took batting practice and jogged.
"He did indicate this was a good day," Ausmus said.