Coke a key cog in Detroit 'pen
Three left-handers give Leyland versatility in late frames
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.
Bonine OK after cramp under rib cage
DETROIT -- Tigers reliever Eddie Bonine is expected to be fine after he left Sunday's win in the ninth inning. Bonine said he suffered a cramp underneath his rib cage on his next-to-last pitch to Lou Marson leading off the ninth inning.
Bonine tried throwing one more pitch and found himself catching his breath. That's when head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and manager Jim Leyland went to the mound.
"I threw a pitch and it kind of knotted up on me," Bonine said. "I've never cramped up underneath my rib before, so I don't really know what that was. I just cramped up and I just needed to take a big breath, and I was fine. I tried to catch my breath and they came out."
Tests conducted after he left the mound showed nothing worse. Bonine will likely rest for a day or two, but that would've been expected anyway after throwing three-plus innings and 49 pitches of relief.
Bonine's relief prevented what could have been a procession of relievers once Justin Verlander left with nobody out in the sixth. Bonine gave up a two-run homer to Jhonny Peralta upon arrival and a solo homer to Shin-Soo Choo, but then recorded five straight groundouts.
Phil Coke replaced Bonine with a full count and gave up a single to Marson, but got a lunging catch by Brandon Inge on Asdrubal Cabrera's sharp liner before induced an inning-ending double play from Michael Brantley.
Guillen nearly wound up with Tribe
DETROIT -- Six years after the Tigers acquired Carlos Guillen from the Mariners in what ended up being a steal of a trade, it's interesting to recall how close he came to being a Cleveland Indian.
Before the Mariners sent Guillen to Detroit to free up the shortstop position for newly-signed free agent Rich Aurilia, Seattle was engaged in talks to send Guillen to Cleveland for All-Star Omar Vizquel, a former Mariner in his own right. Vizquel's physical, and the knee damage it revealed, reportedly caused the deal to fall apart.
At that point, it was clear that the Mariners were looking to replace Guillen, which made him essentially a throwaway player in a deal.
"God decided I'm going to Detroit," Guillen said Sunday morning.
Guillen ended up being a cornerstone for the Tigers' rebuilding effort, which later brought Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Rogers, Todd Jones and others to the Motor City as the Tigers expanded payroll. The Indians went on a run of their own, but mainly with homegrown talent, including Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. While Guillen is still a Tiger, the Indians are on a youth movement.
Turner has impressive debut
DETROIT -- Tigers top pitching prospect Jacob Turner continued to make impressions in the organization, this time in his pro regular-season debut Saturday night for Class A West Michigan. Last year's first-round Draft pick tossed five scoreless innings, while racking up seven strikeouts and no walks, against the Lake County Captains.
Though the Whitecaps ended up with a 6-4 loss, Turner was the highlight. The 18-year-old made an impression on Tigers brass with the big league club in Spring Training, including a strikeout of Yankees All-Star Mark Teixeira and a masterful performance against the Astros in a "B" game.
Turner retired 10 straight batters from the end of the first inning through the fourth, striking out the side in the second. He allowed two hits -- a line-drive single in the opening inning and a double to lead off the fifth.
The Tigers are expected to have a pitch count on Turner for much of the season.
Damon sports customized robe
DETROIT -- Proving that becoming famous with the Red Sox and Yankees has its privileges even after leaving, Johnny Damon has generated some laughs among teammates by sporting a customized Tigers bathrobe around the clubhouse. It includes his name and number in the same type lettering as the Tigers' jerseys.
Damon said he got the robe as a gift from a supplier that makes them. He has similar robes from his time in Boston and New York.
He has a shipment of Tigers robes being readied for his teammates shortly.
"They're coming," he said. "All the boys will have one before too long."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.