Coke's sore groin puts strain on Tigers' bullpen

Coke's sore groin puts strain on Tigers' bullpen

DETROIT -- Phil Coke continues to be bothered by the left groin strain that has sidelined him since last weekend. The question the Tigers faced Tuesday was whether he's ready to return. The question they could soon face is how long they can afford to wait.

His availability to pitch Tuesday hinged on a pregame throwing session. He played catch briefly in left field during batting practice, then went back into the clubhouse with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.

With Coke out, the Tigers survived Monday with four big outs from Drew Smyly, two of them against Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Smyly was available again Tuesday night, supporting the theory that his versatility has helped save the Tigers' bullpen more than once in the season's opening month.

Lefty Darin Downs also has been available to get outs against left-handed hitters. Still, it's difficult to see the Tigers getting through a long stretch short-handed.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.