Coke's progress partially allays Leyland's concern

Coke's progress partially allays Leyland's concern

Coke's progress partially allays Leyland's concern
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland chose his words carefully Wednesday night when asked if he was worried about left-hander Phil Coke's struggles.

"Obviously, we need to get him going, so I would say that ... Concerned? A little bit. But in a panic mode? No," Leyland said. "But we've got to get him going. He's very important for us, because our other two lefties are very inexperienced. So it'll be important to get him going. It's just a matter of him getting the ball where he's trying to get it."

Leyland expounded on those comments Thursday.

"I thought his velocity was better [Wednesday]," Leyland said. "He's just having, up to this point, a funny year. But we've got to get it changed, because he's very important for us. [Duane] Below's really not an ideal specialist lefty guy. He's a long guy and a good one."

"Up here, the bottom line is the bottom line. It's about results. But I do think Cokey threw the ball much better [Wednesday], and he had a tough confrontation with [Eric] Chavez, who did a heck off a job."

The Chavez at-bat lasted 11 pitches, including seven foul balls, before Chavez slapped a ground ball to second for an RBI groundout. The vast majority of those pitches were curveballs.

Coke threw 25 pitches, 21 of them for strikes. Just two of those strikes, however, were swings and misses. That might be a statement about his breaking ball more than his velocity or command.

"I see some that are sharp and some that aren't," Leyland said. "That's just an observation from the bench. When you see the one that's got the late bite, they usually miss it. And you see the one that just kind of goes, they foul it off. And that's what Chavez did."