OAKLAND -- Left-hander Phil Coke had his own personal fan club in attendance as the Detroit Tigers opened a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics on Monday.
Coke grew up in Sonora, a quaint city off the beaten path about four hours east of Oakland that has connections to the California Gold Rush and, despite recent growth, retains a small-town atmosphere.
"There will be all kinds of people from up the hill," said Coke, who began to rattle off numerous folks expected to attend, including members of his family, his extended family, in-laws and his best friend's family.
"Two years ago when I was here, I was shagging in the outfield and I heard someone calling my name," Coke said. "I look over and it's a friend of mine sitting out in left field. These guys come down to watch a baseball game, and I'm just part of the sideshow. They don't care where they sit."
Coke has appeared in five of the Tigers' last eight games, pitching a total of 7 2/3 innings, and he appears to be smoothing things out. He's allowed three runs over his past 8 2/3 innings, a 3.11 ERA that has dropped his season ERA to its current season-low 6.06.
He made three appearances during a 20-day stretch between April 26 and May 17.
"I'm the kind of guy that the more I threw the better I did," Coke said. "It was awkward to throw one day, then take five days off. We needed innings out of me and I'm more than happy to do it. I feel I can do anything I'm asked to do."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.