DETROIT -- Phil Coke's eight-pitch inning of relief at Triple-A Toledo on Thursday put him in position to return this weekend. The Tigers announced after Friday's game that they'll activate Coke from the 15-day disabled list before Saturday's game against the Indians, restoring their bullpen to three left-handed relievers.
To make room on the 25-man roster, the Tigers optioned right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo.
Coke, who went on the DL with a left groin strain before the Tigers left for their recent road trip, said he felt OK during his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Toledo. Coke actually faced four batters within his eight pitches, inducing back-to-back groundouts before Chris Herrmann sent a sharp ground ball through the middle off second baseman Brandon Douglas' glove for a two-out single. Coke followed with a quick third out from Chris Colabello.
Because Coke's DL move was backdated to April 26, he was eligible to return on Saturday. Detroit's other lefty relievers, Drew Smyly and Darin Downs, pitched some of their best ball in his absence, and Leyland said he'll have to adjust some roles. That goes especially for Smyly, who has gone from long reliever to a late-inning lefty specialist.
"We really have to get a situation ironed out as far as Smyly is concerned," Leyland said. "He's doing a fantastic job, obviously. If you can have two of those lefties available each night, it's a good thing, but I also want him to pitch. So it's a little tricky."
Putkonen returns to Toledo after earning his first Major League win last night. More important, his 2 2/3 hitless innings with four strikeouts over two appearances made an impression on Leyland.
"I think Putkonen's a big league pitcher right now, and I told him that," Leyland said. "He's a big league pitcher that's going to be pitching in the Minor Leagues."
Fister at historic pace with hit batters
DETROIT -- Doug Fister took his first loss of the year on Thursday, but it wasn't his only first. His latest hit batter put him into record territory.
With his 0-2 pitch nailing Denard Span in the second inning, Fister became the first Major League pitcher since at least 1921 to hit 10 batters by May 15. He also continued a pace that could have him threatening the modern Major League record by the end of the summer.
No Major League hurler had even hit double digits by the end of May since former Rays ace Victor Zambrano did it in 2004. However, his total stood at eight in mid-May.
No big league pitcher has hit 20 in a season since 2004, when former Cub Carlos Zambrano and Boston's Bronson Arroyo both did it to lead their respective leagues. Last season, the league-leading total was 14, reached by Ian Kennedy in the National League and Gavin Floyd in the American League.
Leyland takes blame for Raburn's time in Detroit
DETROIT -- One year ago around this time, Ryan Raburn was on his way to getting booed out of Detroit. His experiment as the Tigers' regular second baseman was going horribly, offensively and defensively, and the fan response was growing.
Manager Jim Leyland waited it out, hoping Raburn would get that one hit to spark him on the kind of roll that he gets on -- the kind of roll he's on right now. It never happened, and it was probably the decision fans critiqued the most during Leyland's oft-questioned contract year.
Now, as Raburn returns to Detroit in a Cleveland Indians uniform coming off American League Player of the Week honors for going 11-for-12 with four home runs in a four-game stretch, Leyland is trying to put the blame on himself for Raburn not working out as an everyday player.
"Everybody knows what I think of Ryan Raburn," Leyland said Thursday. "I always have, and I always will. And I know he's a talented player, and if he gets comfortable again he's going to do well. I think I probably screwed him up last year making him a second baseman. If I had played him part time in the outfield and moved him around and not just had high expectations, he'd have probably been fine. So I'll take the responsibility for that. He's a talented guy.
"It was probably my fault. I just thought maybe we could get 15 home runs out of him playing second base. It didn't work, so it's my mistake."
Raburn, who talked with reporters before batting practice, respected Leyland's thought, but wasn't willing to put that on him.
"I appreciate him thinking it was his fault. It was nobody's fault," he said. "I think it's just the nature of the game. You go through spurts where it seems like nothing goes right for you and you go through spurts where there's nothing you can do wrong. It was just one of those years where it was going to go wrong. It did last year. But nobody is to blame. I was the one out there playing and I just didn't get it done."
• Emmy Award-winning actor and Michigan native Timothy Busfield and his wife, actress Melissa Gilbert, attended Friday's game and met the Tigers during batting practice. Busfield, who was born in Lansing, spoke at Michigan State University's spring commencement last week. Busfield is known for two well-known baseball movies, Field of Dreams and Little Big League.
• With Mike Scioscia's protest of Thursday's Angels-Astros game rendered moot, Leyland remains the last Major League manager to win a protest. As a rookie manager with the Pirates in 1986, Leyland argued a rain-shortened June loss to the Cardinals should not have been called because the umpiring crew didn't wait the required period before deciding. The game was continued the next day before the regularly scheduled game; the Pirates still lost.