Coke a key cog in Detroit 'pen

Coke a key cog in Detroit 'pen

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland believes his three left-handed relievers complement each other well, from sidearmer Fu-Te Ni to harder-throwing Brad Thomas. But it might be Phil Coke who provides the most versatility.

Coke's relative consistency against left-handed and right-handed hitters gives him the best chance of filling Bobby Seay's value of pitching short or long outings. Two of his first three outings this year covered multiple innings.

One key will be how well he handles sitting down at the end of an inning and getting back up for the next.

"We're breaking him in for it, because I think it's going to be pretty important," manager Jim Leyland said. "If we can get it to where we really get Thomas and Ni rolling, I can use them a little earlier and save Coke for more situational stuff, just one inning, that would be ideal. But right now, he's probably not used to going in and pitching, and then coming in and sitting down and going back out."

Coke retired the side in the sixth inning of Friday's home opener, then walked the first two batters of the seventh. He noted after the game that he was a little flat coming out for that second inning of work. Leyland took responsibility for that.