Tigers activate Coke from DL, option Putkonen

Tigers activate Coke from DL, option Putkonen

DETROIT -- Phil Coke's eight-pitch inning of relief at Triple-A Toledo on Thursday put him in position to return this weekend. The Tigers announced after Friday's game that they'll activate Coke from the 15-day disabled list before Saturday's game against the Indians, restoring their bullpen to three left-handed relievers.

To make room on the 25-man roster, the Tigers optioned right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo.

Coke, who went on the DL with a left groin strain before the Tigers left for their recent road trip, said he felt OK during his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Toledo. Coke actually faced four batters within his eight pitches, inducing back-to-back groundouts before Chris Herrmann sent a sharp ground ball through the middle off second baseman Brandon Douglas' glove for a two-out single. Coke followed with a quick third out from Chris Colabello.

Because Coke's DL move was backdated to April 26, he was eligible to return on Saturday. Detroit's other lefty relievers, Drew Smyly and Darin Downs, pitched some of their best ball in his absence, and Leyland said he'll have to adjust some roles. That goes especially for Smyly, who has gone from long reliever to a late-inning lefty specialist.

"We really have to get a situation ironed out as far as Smyly is concerned," Leyland said. "He's doing a fantastic job, obviously. If you can have two of those lefties available each night, it's a good thing, but I also want him to pitch. So it's a little tricky."

Putkonen returns to Toledo after earning his first Major League win last night. More important, his 2 2/3 hitless innings with four strikeouts over two appearances made an impression on Leyland.

"I think Putkonen's a big league pitcher right now, and I told him that," Leyland said. "He's a big league pitcher that's going to be pitching in the Minor Leagues."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.