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Tigers Announce Season-Opening Rotation; Phil Coke Begins In Bullpen

With two off-days between March 31 and April 9 on the schedule, the Detroit Tigers didn't need to use a fifth starter in their pitching rotation during the opening week of the season. Early in Spring Training, the team had announced that Justin Verlander would take the customary ace role of pitching on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. And Jim Leyland said that Max Scherzer would start the third game of the season, lining him up for the home opener at Comerica Park.

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The rest of the starting rotation for that first week was a question mark, however. Who would start the second game of the opening series? And with those off-days, who would be pitching out of the bullpen to begin the season? Would it be Phil Coke, who's making the transition from reliever to starter? Or would it be Brad Penny, who the Tigers signed to be their presumed fifth starter?

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Leyland finally provided answers on Monday. Penny will start the Tigers' second game at Yankee Stadium on April 2. And Coke won't join the starting rotation until April 9, which is the second game of Detroit's opening homestand versus the Kansas City Royals. That prevents him from starting against his former Yankees teammates, perhaps not an unintentional consequence. (And as John Lowe points out in the Freep, this also keeps Coke from having to face a Baltimore Orioles lineup with some big right-handed bats.)

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So the season-opening rotation lines up like this: Verlander, Penny and Scherzer, with Rick Porcello to start the fourth game on the schedule, April 4 at Baltimore. Verlander and Penny will start the last two games of the road trip, with Scherzer and Coke starting the first two home games.

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After announcing the rotation, Leyland added that Coke would throw at least 50 pitches in middle relief his first time out (whenever that is) to get him ready for his first start of the season. The Tigers manager didn't elaborate on his decision to keep Coke in the bullpen to begin with, however.