Tigers' ALCS roster set with return of Coke
Left-handed reliever had been out since September due to forearm issue
BOSTON -- The Tigers made their 25-man roster official Saturday morning for the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, with only one change, returning left-hander Phil Coke to the bullpen for right-hander Luke Putkonen.
Game 1 of the ALCS is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET (watch on FOX).
Everything else remains the same, including former shortstop Jhonny Peralta as the right-handed-hitting option in left field and rookie Hernan Perez as a pinch-running specialist.
The Tigers announced on Friday that Coke would be on the roster after missing more than three weeks with soreness in his left forearm. He spent the AL Division Series working out with the Tigers' instructional league squad in Lakeland, Fla., trying to get his arm back in pitching shape.
Before Coke left, he said he had been pitching through the forearm issue for most of the summer. That might have played some part in his uncharacteristic numbers, especially against left-handed hitters, who batted .299 (23-for-77) against him compared to a .241 average for his career.
With no regular-season prep time, the Tigers are taking a chance that a healthy arm will help Coke fare better against the left-handed hitters Boston features. Coke's career numbers against David Ortiz (2-for-18, four strikeouts) and Jacoby Ellsbury (1-for-11, four strikeouts) make it worth the risk, allowing manager Jim Leyland to play matchups earlier in the game if he needs to against a Red Sox lineup that runs up starters' pitch counts.
Coke, Drew Smyly and Jose Alvarez form the lefty relief trio for this series. Al Alburquerque and Jose Veras are the primary right-handed setup relievers for closer Joaquin Benoit.
Putkonen was the only Tigers pitcher who didn't appear in the AL Division Series against Oakland. With regular-season starters Rick Porcello and Alvarez working out of the bullpen, Putkonen was essentially a third long reliever for depth purposes. Porcello can pitch in shorter situations, as he did in a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning of Game 2 in the ALDS.
Left-hander Darin Downs and right-hander Evan Reed remain in Florida working out in case the Tigers need to make an injury replacement. Hard-throwing rookie right-hander Bruce Rondon is down there, too, but hasn't yet progressed with his sore elbow enough to reach pitching shape.
The positional roster was fairly set. Though Matt Tuiasosopo continues to travel with the team and work out on the field during batting practice, Peralta's success has allowed him to pretty well fill Tuiasosopo's old role.
The Tigers can carry Perez on the roster as an extra positional player thanks to a four-man starting rotation. His primary role is to run for designated hitter Victor Martinez in the late innings, as he did in Game 4. He scored what turned out to be a critical insurance run on an eighth-inning wild pitch in that game.
Perez, widely regarded as Detroit's second baseman of the future but also a potential emergency option at shortstop, stole 28 bases in 35 attempts between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season. He does not have the blistering speed of his Boston pinch-running counterpart, former Tiger Quintin Berry, but the Tigers aren't expecting him to steal bases so much as they're using him to take an extra base on hits.