Category Archives: Phil Coke

Some more important Spring Training matters.


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Here we are at the tail end of Spring Training. It is a wonder that we have arrived at this point, is it not? Many of us are looking out our windows right now at piles of snow surrounding more or less indifferently cleared sidewalks, piles of snow obliterating perfectly good on-street parking spaces, piles of snow melting off of rooftops onto the unlucky, uncovered heads of passersby, piles of snow that someone’s labradoodle has peed on. But real live Baseball That Counts is starting in two weeks. Truly it is enough to make one ponder the mysteries of the universe, or at least the mysteries of summer-associated sports played in April in northern climes.

In any event, things have been occurring. We all learned that Jhonny Peralta is allergic to shellfish, for instance. This vital information came to light after he consumed what he thought was clubhouse potato soup, later to be revealed as treacherously potato-white and potato-chunky clam chowder.

There are lessons to be learned here. The first one is for the kids still in school: don’t make fun of your peers for food allergies, because that stuff is serious, and also they might one day grow up to be a Major League Baseball player and then won’t you look dumb? You will. Be nice. Secondly: maybe the clubhouse spread should be labeled. Like, really clearly. With big black letters on brightly colored pieces of cardstock. In English and Spanish. Thirdly: Jhonny Peralta has a serious food allergy. This was not widely known information before this incident. Now you know.

Another thing that occurred: Miguel Cabrera was involved in a MLB Network video art project. It involved Rihanna and Adam Jones and the kind of digital video effects that one would in fact expect from video art created by, say, your average contemporary art student– a little more Ryan Trecartin than Nam June Paik, you know.

As much as I love Miguel Cabrera, obviously, I have to note that Adam Jones is near-criminally underused in this project. From his brief appearances it is clear that the man can, and more importantly, wants to (over)act, with a readiness and enthusiasm that all the props in the world cannot approximate. But while ruing our lost opportunities to see Adam Jones flower into his full performative potential, we must not fail to appreciate that which we are given, that being Miguel Cabrera flailing around in a scuba mask and having some sort of emotional moment with a baguette, for reasons that remain obscure even upon repeated viewings. I am sure you have all seen it by now, but I urge you to spend some more time with it: this is art that resists easy and immediate interpretation.

Another thing that occurred a while ago and it is just now showing up in this section of the internet because GRAD SKOOL: Spring Training, as we all know, is the period during which all the most important stories have the space and time to be written. The Detroit baseball writers stretch their fingers with ease in the humid Floridian air. Their minds are sharp, honed on a long offseason of laughing at the misfortunes of the hockey beat writers; sometimes this involves laughing at themselves, and this too serves to sharpen the mind. They are at the pinnacle of their unathletic game, and the athletes, lulled into a calm good mood by renewed baseball activities and covert clubhouse clam chowder, are willing to give them a little more attention than usual.

All this led to the most important reportage of the Tigers’ Spring: Phil Coke (the relief pitcher) met and conversed with Phil Coke’s Brain (the Twitter account).

MLive’s Chris Iott is a gentleman and a scholar. Phil Coke is hilarious and a jolly good sport. His Brain abides.

One last thing: Brennan Boesch, he of the surfer-boy hair and dubious oblique and frustrating 2012 stats, was finally jettisoned from the team. Mr. D said many expected things about “moving forward” and “potential” and “a change of scenery” and all those related phrases that mean the team believes there might still be a cache of talent lurking somewhere within the corporeal person of Brennan Boesch, but they’ve tired of trying to coax it out of hiding and have decided that someone else can give it a shot if they’re feeling feisty.

The Yankees are not feeling particularly feisty these days, but since they are already gunning hard for the prestigious Most Injured Outfield of 2013 award, they extended their grubby little Yankee paws and snatched Brennan up almost immediately. May he enjoy his time in New York, although not to the point where he’s enjoying it because they are actually winning games of baseball.

Why Spring Training is exciting.


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

The Spring! A magical time of renewal and rebirth, birds stretching their wings and beginning to think about those long migrations, Canadian geese settling down to poop all over your city, a time for fresh green buds to appear only to be immediately buried by the next snowstorm. A time for people in cold northerly climes to sit transfixed by photos and videos on their screened devices, showing them what Florida looks like. A time for Ryan Raburn to be employed, although not, for once, by the Tigers. A time for the joyous resumption of baseball activities and all that that entails. But what does it entail? So many wonders. Let us share them, friends.

The Spring brings us Dave Dombrowski’s arbitration-stomping dance, executed with great style each year, this year no less than the others. Should a potential arbitration arise, there he is, our President/CEO/GM/savior-in-stompy-boots, ready to dance like a veritable superb bird of paradise, to dazzle his players and beat any hint of arbitration down into the dirt where it belongs. Filthy process.

The Spring also brings us a stunning new array of striped polo shirts for Mr. D to display at the ballpark, as is only fitting and proper.

(note: those are all Detroit News photos from this Spring)

The Spring brings us a healthy Victor Martinez, his knees filled not with loose shards of bone, or excess fluid, or anything else likely to cause pain, terror and trips to the DL, but instead filled with sunshine and flower petals and the tender breath of sleeping kittens.

Bound freely upon those knees, O Victor! But not too freely. Let us keep them nice and unhurt, yes?

The Spring brings us a delightfully fresh crop of quotes from Jim Leyland, such as when he says that one of his own relief pitchers is “rowing with one oar.” He says it with love, mind you. But it is a very Jim Leylandian species of love, one that blossoms best and most readily in the low-stress environment of early Spring Training and in the presence of one Phillip Douglas Coke, which must of course not pass unremarked.

You row that boat, Phillip. You row your little heart out, with your singular oar and your quixotic determination in the face of this impediment.

The Spring brings us an opportunity to gaze upon the sizable noggin of Bruce Rondon, so that we may wonder at his potential ability to be a Major League closer with the assistance of visual aids instead of the cold words and numbers that have tried to form our perceptions of him all this long winter. Can Bruce Rondon close? Let us look at him and see.

The Spring brings us a stimulating debate on the topic of the new batting practice hats. Are they good? Are they hairball-inducingly bad? Are they naught but mediocre? All have thoughts and feelings on the matter. We do not even have to debate the BP hat. We may engage in a BP hat dialectic if we find that mode of communication more pleasant and useful. All these things are permitted in the Spring.

The Spring also brings us Justin Verlander’s super super dorky golfing outfits. It may in the final estimation be the best wonder that the Spring has to offer.

No rest for weary Avilas, plus Phil Coke, Emergency Closer.


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

1: It’s huge to get the win from a David Price start. He’s no Justin Verlander (then again, nobody is), but he can be really, really good, and sneaking a Tigers win off of him is an essentially unexpected bonus in this series.

2: ALEX AVILA TAKES A BALL OFF THE NECK, STARTS THE NEXT GAME, NO BIG DEAL. No rest for Alex Avila ever. EVER. Alex Avila scoffs in the face of totally irresponsible player abuse. Alex Avila denies his mortal nature, not because he feels he is above other men or because he believes he is somehow invincible, but because Jim Leyland asks him to do this and Alex Avila gives 110% when his coach asks. Even when that 110% is 110% of his good health and future soundness of body. Alex Avila plays as if he is made of solid metal. ALEX AVILA IS IRON MAN.

3: Here’s something creepy. I actually drew Iron Man Avila yesterday, and colored it during the game today. After the game I went to the Mothership to look at the box score, and what did I see? An article with this headline.

GET OUT OF MY HEAD, JASON BECK.

4: Iron Man totally would not give 110% if his high school baseball coach asked him to, but we are ignoring that. Also, Tony Stark totally did not play high school baseball. ANYWAYS.

5: Phil Coke, pitching Helper Monkey. Phil Coke, Emergency Closer. Phil Coke, Dude With a Save.


photo by Samara Pearlstein

With Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde both unavailable, the Tigers were hoping to see a blowout-type game with no stressful late inning pitching situations (ha!), or a complete game masterpiece from Brad Penny (hahaHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha!). So of course they ended up with a one run game in the late innings and all kinds of stress.

Phil Coke came in to pitch the 8th. Working around a double and an intentional walk, he struck out the side. Lacking any other real options, Leyland let him come out for the 9th. Things got Tense (Rays on second and third) but Coke set aside his concerns and got the job done like a boss. A boss of pitching.

6: In his postgame interview, Phil Coke refused to say anything about his personal accomplishments on the mound. In fact, he was so adamantly against this subject that when Ryan Field brought it up, Coke stuck his fingers in his ears and started saying, “LALALALALA” loudly. It was a special moment.

7: Why do I laugh so hard when Alex Avila hits a double off of Kyle Farnsworth? Why is that so freaking funny?

downing Coke, and the pitching of Don Kelly


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

I don’t know what’s going on here. Why are so many of the pitchers suddenly losing their grip on reality all at the same time? Look, Paws knows Jose Reyes is good at baseball, but the rest of the lineup is still the Mets! Why is FredFred struggling so much when he says that his ‘stuff’ feels fine, and that he “doesn’t feel lost“? Why is the bullpen having such difficulties? Why is Phil Coke– nah, actually, we know what’s up with Phil Coke, he’s psyching himself out and nobody in the clubhouse is giving him consoling hugs to counteract it.

I’m only half joking about that, by the way. This was Coke’s quote after the game tonight:

Boos, no boos. Happy people, not happy people, it doesn’t matter, I’m doing the best I can. But I’m sick to my stomach right now.
Tom Gage/Detroit News

In general, a MLB starting pitcher will not come off a bad game and freely admit to the media that he is ‘sick to his stomach’ over it, even if that is what he’s actually feeling. But this is Phil Coke. He has Nervousness and A Lot of Feelings and he’s not afraid to talk about them, and make bloggers all concerned that he’s not getting enough hugs. SERIOUSLY GUYS SOMEONE NEEDS TO JUST GIVE PHIL COKE A HUG AFTER HIS STARTS.

Where is Paws in all of this? If the other Tigers are falling down on the hug-job here, surely this is where Paws can pick up the slack, right?

Sigh.

The positives for this game: Rhino homered, Jhonny hhomered, Andy Dirks homered, and Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs all by his lonesome, because Miguel Cabrera is better at hitting a baseball than many a cat.

There were about a zillion stolen bases by the Mets, which is not a good thing, but it was Victor Martinez catching, so the positive is the fact that Alex Avila remains unsullied.

Also, Don Kelly pitched.

Yeah. That happened.

He faced one batter– Scott Hairston– and got him out to end the top of the 9th. He threw five pitches: two for balls, one called strike, one foul, and then the final pitch, which was lofted to Austin Jackson in center for the out. He hit a flaming 86 mph on the radar gun and that last pitch was a curveball, or something. It was in any event a breaking ball, which startled the heck out of Hairston and amused everyone else observing the game at the time.

Don Kelly can play at any position, and mostly has so far this season, except for catcher… and he’s the emergency backup catcher, so we may well see him there before the year is done. He already warms up the pitcher between innings for Avila sometimes (hilarious to see).


photo by Samara Pearlstein, from this season

The last inning, which featured DJ Carrasco’s impeccable stirrup socks, and of course the pitching Don Kelly, was thus by far the most enjoyable inning of the game. Even including the Tigers offensive outputs, since those were quickly negated in enjoyability when Tigers pitching promptly failed to hold the Mets back following a bunch of runs scored. But high socks and position players pitching are forever.

What did we learn from this game? I don’t know. Life sucks and then Don Kelly pitches. Also, Rod and Mario do NOT properly respect the noble food that is the garlic fry. They were discussing them at various points throughout the game, and talking about how you only need to eat a few and then you’re done, and so on. BLASPHEMY.

ETA: Coke has been moved to the bullpen. Charlie Furbush will take his place in the rotation, at least for now. And if you missed it last night, Daniel Schlereth was sent to the feathery embrace of Muddy– Brayan Villarreal is up for him.

walking off with Ramon Santiago


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ramon Santiago’s very first ever walkoff hit! O the wonder, the splendor, the pile of happy cats at and around home plate! The joy of winning in extra innings! The hilarity of victory coming while Kyle Farnsworth is standing on the mound! The incoherent Ramon Santiago postgame on-field interview!

So much goodness. Even if you believe the Tigers should have been losing the game (as Justin Ruggiano probably should have been safe at home, but was called out because the young homeplate ump was understandably blinded by Alex Avila’s rugged good looks), it is impossible to argue with the happiness that comes from a Ramon Santiago walkoff. IMPOSSIBLE.

Also, you must recall that the Tigers were ahead when the original version of this game was rained into oblivion. So it all works out in the end.

What else?

–I always want to give Phil Coke hugs when the cameras show him looking all nervous. Like when they focus on his feet bouncing in the dugout as he sits and watches the offense try to do things for him. He just seems so anxious! So in need of a hug! Dontrelle Willis inspired these exact feelings when he was around.

–Pitching into the 7th inning, giving up only 4 hits, NO walks, NO runs, well under 100 pitches… and Phil Coke does not get the Win. This is not a prosecutable crime, but until we get rid of Wins because they’re terrible, it should be.

–Magglio was back. He didn’t get any hits, but he hit the ball hard and with better luck would have probably seen at least one drop in. He appeared mobile in the field (as mobile as he ever is, anyways). I know we’re just waiting for his next Surgically Repaired X to give out– feel free to start the pool on what X will be this time around– but maybe things will be ok right up until that moment?

–Coke was making fun of Victor Martinez after the game. VMart scored the winning run from first base, and although he was clearly running all out, he was not actually moving that fast. It was obvious that he was, shall we say, laboring. Coke was joking about someone needing to get him an oxygen tank– a joke that, unknown to Coke, Rod Allen had already made up in the booth.

–I don’t know what Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is doing with his facial hair, but whatever it is, he’s clearly doing it as hard as he can. (Note: the beard is even longer now than it was when that photo was taken.)

–Seriously. Kyle Farnsworth.

Avila’s big day, Phil Coke’s mutant foot, and so on.


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Normally Justin Verlander has to bail out the offense. This is the way of the world: Verlander pitches ridiculously well, the bats give him a meep of an effort, maybe the bullpen does something offensive, Jim Leyland leaves Verlander in until he has thrown more pitches than three other starters on that same day combined, and sometimes the Tigers win. Nature. But on Tuesday, the offense bailed out Justin Verlander!

Granted, the bailing didn’t happen quickly enough to actually get Verlander the win, but it did get the TEAM a win, and kept Verlander from having to swallow a loss. These are important things, because it is awfully nice to see the rest of the team offer a few helping paws on a night where Verlander was not his usual Verlanderian self (6 innings, 104 pitches, 6 runs).

It was Alex Avila who did much of the heavy lifting. He was responsible for some errors, yes, but he also hit TWO home runs. In the same game! With his very own catcher arms! Home run, then home run again! After the second one they cut to a shot of his dad sitting high up in the ballpark behind glass, not celebrating, just sort of quietly smiling as if to say, “Yeah, I made that. Bow down, mortals.”

(No, I don’t know why he’s holding the bat like that in the cartoon. I think I originally had him posing with the bat up on his shoulder and then I had to finish it after I got home from work and was falling asleep, and whatever that is ended up happening. Smile and nod.)

Miguel Cabrera also homered in the Verlander-support effort. It was a three-run homer, which was oddly enough the first three-run homer the Tigers have had all season. This says something depressing about leaving cats on base, I’m sure, but let us choose to turn our minds away from such thoughts right now.

The funniest moment of the game came when Andy Dirks hit a fly ball into the right field corner. Matt Joyce chased it down and caught it, awkwardly slamming into the wall and losing his footing after. He never let go of the ball, but Dirks apparently couldn’t see the play, because he didn’t stop. He just kept running around the bases at full inside-the-park-home-run-wantin’ speed.

Funny? Maybe a little, but mostly that’s just a rookie showing some serious effort. The funny bit was Gene Lamont windmilling like mad as Dirks rounded third, hurrying him home as if the catch had not been made. It’s one thing for Dirks to not have seen the outcome of the play; he was on the basepaths, trying to run hard and not fall over his own feet or whatever. But Lamont should have known that Joyce had already made the out. It’s like he saw Dirks running hard (so very hard) and questioned the evidence of his own eyes. Or something. I don’t know. When Dirks crossed home plate, umpire Gerry Davis held up one fist in the ‘out’ sign like, “Hate to do this to ya, kid, but…”

I wish it HAD been an inside-the-parker, obviously, but it was a nice moment of levity (for fans– Dirks seemed fairly embarrassed), and it was actually very encouraging to see Dirks running that hard. Big effort from the kittens: we can always use more of that.

Phil Coke is on the DL. He stepped off the mound weirdly while pursuing a bunt, turning over his foot. At first it looked like it might have been an ankle injury (eek), but it’s just a bone bruise in his foot. If that is TRULY all it is, he should be ok to come back once the 15-day DL time has run its course.

How did his misstep result in a bone bruise? Well. It turns out that

PHIL COKE IS A MUTANT

Yeah. This is a fact. An MRI showed that he has an extra bone in his foot. This previously silent mutant bone banged into one of his other innocent, non-mutant footbones when he landed awkwardly, causing the bone bruise. Phil Coke’s own body is conspiring against him! His mutant parts inflict pain upon his regions of genetic normalcy! WHAT A TERRIFYING WORLD THIS IS.

It was Brad Penny’s birthday on Tuesday. He turned 33 years old. Happy birthday, Brad Penny!

Ryan Raburn spilled the Coke.


hasty illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Phil Coke spilled. The Coke fizzed out. Coke all over the table. I don’t know. It wasn’t pretty. It was ugly enough to make me resort to Phil-Coke-as-soda talk.

Seven runs in 4.1 innings. One of those was an inherited runner that Brayan Villarreal brought home, and one of those was the Raburn-aided home run. So that’s like 5 runs and change that Coke truly gave up by himself. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still firmly on the side of Not Good, but it’s slightly less horrific than 7 through 4.1. This is what Phil Coke needs to concentrate on, this slightly less terrible fact. The last thing we need is for him to start getting into his own head even more than he already has.

There’s video of the Raburn play over here at the Mothership, in case you didn’t see it but you still feel like feasting your eyeballs on some painful absurdity.

I’m not even sure how that happens. The ball hit Raburn’s glove, shot into the air, and went over the fence. If he hadn’t touched it, it would not have been a home run. If he had… you know… caught it, it would not have been a home run. If the ball had gone into his glove and he had immediately dropped it, it would not have been a home run. So how was this a home run?

It was almost like he reached out and threw it over the fence. Obviously that’s not what happened, because Ryan Raburn does not hate the Tigers and want them to lose, nor does he (presumably) hate Phil Coke and want to ruin his life. But that’s what it LOOKED like. Then there was that dive at the end of the play, which also had the potential to be bad. Raburn’s lucky that he ran out of skidding momentum before he smashed his head/neck into the fence or its posts.

Maybe Raburn got himself all used to playing second base, so he was rusty in the ways of the outfield? Who knows. Just weird. Weird and awful.

Consolation: at least it was the Mariners and not a more loathsome AL Central team. At least it was a King Felix start, which always has the chance to be a loss even under normal circumstances. At least Brad Thomas had a confidence-building scoreless inning. At least Will Rhymes got on base and came around to score, even if he didn’t have a hit.

At least tomorrow is Verlander.