Coke called to mound in Sunday's win

Coke called to mound in Sunday's win

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't want to use reliever Phil Coke and closer Jose Valverde on Sunday. But he wasn't able to keep the ball out of Coke's hand in Sunday's 6-2 victory over the Orioles.

Two days after being drilled by a pitch in Friday's 6-3 loss against the Orioles, Coke told the skipper he was ready to go if needed. With the Tigers holding a four-run lead in the ninth inning after a gem by starter Justin Verlander, Leyland obliged Coke's wishes.

"I always want the ball," Coke said. "I don't care if I'm missing a limb, I want the ball. If I'm able to go out there and throw the ball over the plate and get the job done, then that's what I'm here for. That's my job. I want to be effective and able to do my job. Luckily, I was given the opportunity."

Coke allowed a leadoff walk, but then forced Adam Jones to hit into a double play. He ended the game by striking out Felix Pie with a nasty slider. And as soon as home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins rang up Pie, Coke howled out a scream that seemed so loud it could be heard in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"I was really fired up," Coke said. "I was really, really fired up, especially after stinking the other night. I got hit, it hurt and I was upset."

As for Valverde, Leyland utilized the team's off-day on Monday to help his closer recover from tenderness in his pitching elbow. Valverde said he expects to be ready to go on Tuesday when the Tigers travel to Texas.

With the Detroit 13 1/2 games behind in the American League Central race, Leyland doesn't see any reason to send any of his players out if they aren't healthy. He's already made his season assessment of both pitchers, too.

The skipper said he's going to consider using Coke as a starter next season to add a lefty to the rotation, which was all right-handed for most of the year.

For Valverde, Leyland used one word to describe the big right-hander -- tremendous. Valverde is 2-4 with 25 saves in 57 appearances with only two blown saves.

"I need him," Leyland said of his All-Star closer. "We've been short. I'm not going to take any chances for him. We are looking for 100 percent and totally free of injury before we get him back out there."