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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to defend their back-to-back American League Central titles.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Phil Coke is frustrated he's not contributing more to Tigers' success


DETROIT — Same conundrum for job seekers, who need experience to get jobs, but can’t get it without having a job.

The Tigers know Phil Coke is struggling, but they have to throw him in order for him to get himself righted, to a point where he’s not struggling.

Manager Jim Leyland tried to give his lefty that shot when he brought him in to start the 10th inning of Thursday’s tie game, facing left-hander J.B. Shuck. He gave up a single, then two more hits to right-handed hitters Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and a sacrifice fly to lefty Josh Hamilton, going on the hook for the loss in the 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Angels.

“Well, you gotta pitch him. He won’t get going by sitting there. We wanted to give him an opportunity today to do something. People will focus on the right-hand hitter thing, but that’s not really the thing to focus on today, either. The thing to focus on is the leadoff guy, who was a left-hander, that they got on,” Leyland said. “I mean, when you get the leadoff guy, it changes the whole inning.”

Leyland also felt like there was too much emphasis on Coke, and not enough on other things.

“We gotta pitch him, because he’s gotta be good for us,” the manager said. “But we’re focusing on the wrong thing, as we always are. We got one run in 10 innings. We got one run in 10 innings.

“Phil Coke didn’t have a good day. We gotta get Phil Coke going, because if we don’t, we’re in trouble. We need Phil Coke to be good for us.

“Obviously, he didn’t have a good day, so I’ll address that.

“But let’s address the other issue. We always want to talk about a different situation. We got one run ... in 10 innings. That’s why we didn’t win this game. We had our chances to win this game.

“I’m not defending Phil Coke in any way. He had a tough outing. That’s acceptable. We don’t like it, but it’s acceptable. But we got one run in 10 innings.”

That sentiment wasn’t just the manager’s.

“You can’t blame it all on one guy. We had 10 innings today,” said starting pitcher Doug Fister, who got a no-decision after allowing just one run in seven innings. “We’re a team — we’re going to win as a team and lose as a team. That's the way it goes. It’s not one guy’s fault.”

For Coke’s part, though, he doesn’t mind shouldering a little bit of the blame.

“I’m annoyed right now, man. How do you think I feel right now? I’m not happy. I’m not excited about what I’ve done this season for this team,” Coke said. “I feel like I’m not contributing in a positive way and that’s a tough pill for me to swallow because I pride myself on what I do and I haven’t got anything to show for it. I don’t feel like I have anything positive effect-wise on our team.”

In his last six appearances, including Thursday, Coke has allowed six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings pitched, earning two extra-inning losses. He’s also allowed opponents a .368 batting average against in that span. He’s 0-5 on the season with a 6.56 ERA.

He’s struggled most against right-handed hitters, allowing them to hit .319 against him. 

Coke says it’s neither mechanical nor stuff.

“I don’t know what’s not clicking. ... I just don’t have the results progressing the way the velocity and location have been,” he said.

“I don’t feel like I’m trying to do too much when I’m out there. I don’t feel like the whole team’s weight is on my shoulders or anything like that. I’m going out there and doing my best to execute pitches that I’m being asked to throw. I don’t have the results to show for it.”

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