Tigers planning to use Phil Coke as a starter next season

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After acquiring Phil Coke from the Yankees this winter the Tigers talked about potentially putting him into the rotation, but eventually decided to keep him in the bullpen.
He’s had a strong season, posting a 3.57 ERA and 51/25 K/BB ratio in 63 innings as a left-handed setup man, but the Tigers haven’t given up on the idea of him being a starter and in fact manager Jim Leyland announced today that Coke will head into spring training as a penciled-in member of the 2011 rotation.
“I’ve told Coke I’m 99.9 percent sure of it,” Leyland said. “But I’m not going to discuss it any more than that. If I change my mind, I don’t want him to think I lied to him. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Coke will make his first career start this afternoon against the Orioles after working out of the bullpen in each of his first 157 appearances. However, he was primarily a starter in the minors and hasn’t shown much of a platoon split in the majors, shutting down lefties while also holding righties to .241/.332/.359.
I’m always in favor of giving pitchers every opportunity to fill a 200-inning role before putting them into a 60-inning role for the long haul, and certainly at 27 years old Coke looks capable of developing into a solid mid-rotation starter in Detroit. Right now the Tigers’ projected 2011 rotation is Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Coke, and Armando Galarraga, with Jeremy Bonderman likely departing as a free agent.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.