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Could Phil Coke Start One Day?

The Detroit Tigers are going to be in need of some starting pitching help next year if Jeremy Bonderman isn't re-signed. That has opened up a question that was posed a long time ago: could Phil Coke become a starter?

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Coke has been one of the few bright spots this season. He's posted a 7-3 record with a 2.50 ERA, mostly setting up closer Jose Valverde. But there's always concern when a guy who's not used to pitching multiple innings is thrust into a starting role. Manager Jim Leyland shared his thoughts on the matter the other day:

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"We talked about that the other day. I don't know the answer. I wish I did."

↵"He's really good," Leyland said. "I think he has the pitches to start, without question, but would they hold up starting? I don't know."↵

"But I also believe that if you think in your heart that you're risking health if you start him, then you should leave him where he's at -- because to have him four or five times a week is better than not having him at all.

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"He's a very talented pitcher, though. He's a legitimate top-tier left-handed major-league relief pitcher right now. There are not many better than he is. I can tell you that right now."

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This also brings up the case of Joel Zumaya. Zumaya has been handling the eighth inning pretty much since he got to the big leagues, but he's been injured so often the Tigers can't rely on him to take on that role again if Coke is bumped to a starter. Sure enough, when Zumaya went down this year, Coke took over as the setup man. Coke has expressed desire in the past to start, but the Tigers bullpen may not be able to afford it.