Tigers put Coke on DL with groin strain, recall Ortega
DETROIT — Enough waiting.
Phil Coke was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a sore groin. The transaction was made retroactive to Friday.
To replace him on in the bullpen, the Tigers recalled the contract of right-handed fireballer Jose Ortega from Triple-A Toledo.
“Well, it seemed to be a day-to-day thing, because there was forward progression each day, until yesterday. I was very optimistic going into yesterday, but when I felt what I was feeling, suddenly I was a little less optimistic about giving them the thumb’s up, ‘Hey, I can pitch today,’” Coke said of finally arriving at the decision to put him on the DL. “It was in the conversation from the beginning, but I was being given enough leeway to see what happened. ...
“I worked my tail off, trying to get it right, and it wasn’t cooperating.”
Coke hadn’t pitched since Thursday, when he went 1 1/3 innings in the Tigers’ 8-3 loss to the Royals, watching his ERA nearly double (going from 4.91 to 8.31) with four earned runs charged to his record.
“I can’t stand day-to-day,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of the up-in-the-air nature of short-term injuries. “Those are the toughest kind, that four-, five-day (stuff). ... I’ve seen that (stuff) all my life. It don’t work.
“We can backdate it some, get him better move on.”
Ortega — who found out about his promotion at 3 a.m., after the Mud Hens returned from their road trip to Norfolk, Va. — gives the Tigers another arm to use, if need be.
He struck out 19 in 14 innings of work at Toledo, not allowing a run and only allowing five hits in his 10 appearances.
“According to the reports, he’s really throwing well. ... He’s throwin’ (expletive) gas, 96, 97. Gas,” Leyland said before Wednesday’s game. “He’s always had electric stuff. ... I’m anxious to see him. I hope it’s not in the second inning today. He evidently must be doing something a little different — and I can’t swear to that. Must be hiding the ball better or something. I don’t know. But they said he’s really throwing well.”
The 24-year-old Ortega made two appearances with the Tigers last year, but what has held him back to date has been control.
“He’s been 2-0 on too many guys. No matter how good an arm you’ve got, that normally doesn’t work,” Leyland said. “We’ll see if he can translate what he was doing down there to the majors. It’d be a big help, because he’s got electric stuff. ...
“I don’t get excited when those young guys are all throwing early on at TigerTown, but he can’t help but catch your eye.”
It’s helpful for the Tigers to have anybody at this point, especially with Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit unavailable for Wednesday’s game. That left the club having to lean on a pair of rookies in Ortega and Bruce Rondon, who was optioned to Toledo after the game.
“I was telling you the other day, we don’t have this bullpen quite in synch just yet. We’ve been fortunate, because the starters have been so good, it eased some of the pain for some of the guys, but today we got one that put us in a little position, where we had to make some adjustments,” Leyland said. “And it didn’t work out very well.”
It’s been the same problem for a week, though.
With Coke unavailable for five straight games, and the bullpen still in flux with the addition of closer Jose Valverde — who is being employed carefully by Leyland, considering he had no spring training — it’s been a tough couple of days of Leyland having to piecemeal the late innings.
In some ways, the skipper would rather a pitcher just be straight with him — like Octavio Dotel eventually was — than continually say he’s OK, but not be available.
“I don’t think anybody’s pitchers are straight with anybody. We can tell them, and tell them, and tell them, ‘(dang) it, if something doesn’t feel right, let us know about it.’ But in today’s game, people are, for the most part, macho enough that, you know ... Cokie felt it on that pitch, never said anything about it,” said Leyland, who’d had Al Alburquerque do the same thing to him the night before, when he strained a hip flexor.
“Alburquerque, obviously, that was a real strange one, because we went out, and he said, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK, I’m OK.’ We saw him throw another pitch, and we knew he wasn’t OK.
“I understand that. That’s the human element of it. That’s human nature. Nobody wants to have their teammates see them come off the field. They just don’t want it. And I don’t blame them for that. I understand that. But it’s not a smart thing to do.
“They want to play. Nobody wants to come out of the game.”
With Coke, the injury just got progressively worse, rather than better, as he tried to test it out daily. Coke will not make the upcoming road trip to Houston and Washington, instead staying in Toledo to rehabilitate. The Tigers also activated Avisail Garcia (bruised heel) from his rehab assignment with Class A Lakeland, and assigned him to Toledo.