Let’s begin with Phil Coke, the one player among the eight who is assured a spot on the active major league roster in 2011. Coke, 28, is one of the more intriguing players for the Tigers as they head into Spring Training, as he’ll be moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation.
As a reliever last season, Coke was probably Detroit’s best man out of the bullpen. The left-hander pitched in 74 games, compiling a 7-5 record, 3.76 ERA, and 53 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings. He’s expected to fill the fourth spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation, providing a left-hander that Detroit didn’t have among its starters for most of last season.
Coke’s contract is believed to be for $425,000, the same amount he made last year. He’s eligible for arbitration in 2012, however, and if he’s able to pitch successfully as a starter this season, a hefty boost in salary seems likely.
First baseman-outfielder Ryan Strieby, infielder Audy Ciriaco, left-handers Charlie Furbush and Duane Below, and right-handers Brayan Villareal, Lester Oliveros and Jose Ortega are the seven other players who signed. All are minor-league prospects. Among those seven, Strieby and Furbush are the ones most likely to see the majors next season, or maybe even some time this year.
Strieby has dealt with hand and wrist injuries over the past two seasons, but the Tigers like his power bat enough to move him to left field so he might eventually have a place in the major-league lineup. Last season, Strieby hit 10 home runs and 49 RBIs in 325 plate appearances with Triple-A Toledo.
Furbush pitched at Single-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie last season before finishing the year with the Mud Hens. The left-hander compiled a 3-4 record and 6.29 ERA in nine starts, with 37 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings.
No financial details on any of the other seven contracts were released. The deals are major-league contracts, however, meaning they won’t take effect unless the player sees time in Detroit this season. (Salaries would then be prorated.)