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.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.