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Ausmus counting on Coke to deliver in 'pen

MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had his pitching mapped out for the 10th inning and beyond Tuesday night. If Phil Coke could retire Dee Gordon and Carl Crawford, Ausmus had Al Alburquerque waiting for right-handed-hitting Hanley Ramirez if they couldn't walk him, and Drew Smyly set for potential long-relief work after that, starting with Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier.

The key to the sequence, whether they walked Ramirez or pitched to him, was Coke keeping the game going. Crawford's double to the left-field corner ended it, scoring Chone Figgins from first base after Joba Chamberlain had walked him to lead off the inning.

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LOS ANGELES -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had his pitching mapped out for the 10th inning and beyond Tuesday night. If Phil Coke could retire Dee Gordon and Carl Crawford, Ausmus had Al Alburquerque waiting for right-handed-hitting Hanley Ramirez if they couldn't walk him, and Drew Smyly set for potential long-relief work after that, starting with Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier.

The key to the sequence, whether they walked Ramirez or pitched to him, was Coke keeping the game going. Crawford's double to the left-field corner ended it, scoring Chone Figgins from first base after Joba Chamberlain had walked him to lead off the inning.

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It's a microcosm for the Tigers' bullpen struggles. It's also a microcosm to Coke's season so far, and a continuation of his struggles from last season.

At this point, the Tigers are trying to see what Coke has. If this was last season, when Smyly was a full-time reliever, perhaps the decision might have been different. The way the bullpen lines up most days this year, with Smyly normally in the rotation, they need to see what he can do if and when he's effective.

"Yeah, we do," Ausmus said. "We need Phil to pitch well. He finished Spring Training pitching pretty well. His first two outings during the regular season obviously have not been what we hoped, but we need Phil to pitch well."

If he doesn't, then the Tigers likely will soon have a decision to make, either reordering the lefty assignments in the bullpen or changing the bullpen mix with one of the many left-handers at Triple-A Toledo. That point, however, isn't here yet.

Coke did not have a solid history against Crawford heading into the meeting, having given up three hits in six at-bats. Ausmus said he was aware of the history, but that the sample size was small.

"Generally, I would say 0-for-6 or 3-for-6 doesn't mean a ton," Ausmus said. "If somebody was 0-for-6 with five strikeouts, that might hold a little bit more water."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

Detroit Tigers, Phil Coke