MINNEAPOLIS -- A day after Phil Coke threw off the bullpen mound at Target Field, seemingly feeling fine and ready to return to the Tigers relief corps, things aren't fine anymore. He's heading back to Detroit for an MRI on his left elbow, which tightened up on him again overnight.
"Today it was tight and sore," Coke said. "And before I threw yesterday, I didn't feel anything."
Coke will undergo an exam Wednesday afternoon. What happens there is anyone's guess, depending on the results. Even the best-case scenario, treatment and rest rather than surgery, seemingly leaves little to no time to get him ready for the postseason, which leaves the Tigers bullpen devoid of experienced lefties.
Coke is hoping for the best, but it's clear he's understandably nervous about what he's going to find out.
"I'm incredibly disappointed right now just because the way it's been going," Coke said. "I feel like I'm letting everybody down. I don't deal well with being in this current position.
"It's a whole what-if thing. I mean, what if I told them to shut me down sooner? Where would we be right now? I don't know. That's what makes it so difficult."
What Coke means is something he has said in recent days: He has been dealing with some degree of elbow discomfort for a while, as long as last October.
"I'm really apologetic to the fan base for the season having gone the way it has, because I've been fighting it all season, and I was fighting through soreness in the postseason last year too," he said. "That's what I was attributing it to, because I was able to go out and do my job and get it done and no major problems. That's what I felt like I was doing throughout the season this year, but it must be a little bit different than I thought."
He became a postseason hero last October when he stepped into save situations during the American League Championship Series to mow down a lefty-heavy Yankees lineup. With Tuesday's news, it's looking more and more like he'll miss his chance to repeat it and put a frustrating regular season behind him. At the very least, the Division Series seems tough to pull off if he needs any significant amount of rest.
"I was really, really hopefully that today was going to be the best day," he said. "This is the definitive time. If you're going to proceed forward, you need to be doing your job."