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Lefty Coke's struggles alter bullpen usage

Lefty Coke's struggles alter bullpen usage

Lefty Coke's struggles alter bullpen usage
DETROIT -- As Brandon Moss' eighth-inning drive soared toward the right-field fence Saturday night, A's manager Bob Melvin thought he had a game-tying home run.

A's vs. Tigers

"When he catches one like that, they go out," Melvin said. "I think he did get it off the end just a little bit."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland, on the other hand, thought it was staying in. He played his bullpen on the idea that a close drive would stay in. He ended up right, albeit barely.

Though Moss had 19 home runs and a four-digit OPS against right-handed pitchers in the regular season, and Joaquin Benoit led American League relievers with 14 homers allowed, Leyland did not think about using lefty Phil Coke in the matchup or at any other point Saturday night. Leyland's worry was that by bringing in Coke to face any left-handed hitter, Melvin would counter with one of the right-handed power hitters on his bench, Jonny Gomes or Chris Carter. And Leyland would be in a bind.

"The ball was carrying pretty good to left, not great to right," Leyland said. "Coke's had a pretty rough time with right-handed hitters. Of course, he might have to get a righty out. If you could pitch around him on purpose, that would be one thing, but he's made some mistakes. Righties have obviously hit him very well all year."

Even without the wind, it's a concern. Right-handed hitters batted .396 against Coke for the season, including 16-for-30 (.533) since the All-Star break.

As long as there's a good right-handed hitter on Oakland's bench, there's a chance Coke will stay in Detroit's bullpen in favor of an effective right-hander like Benoit, Al Alburquerque or Octavio Dotel. The one exception might be Josh Reddick, who probably wouldn't be lifted.

As Leyland put Coke's struggles, "It's kind of mind-boggling, what happened."

Asked if hitters have made adjustments against Coke, Leyland said, "I think it's more than that. I think he's just made bad pitches."

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