Rondon, Coke not expected to pitch in ALDS
Neither able to throw; Alvarez or Downs to give club second lefty in 'pen
DETROIT -- Bruce Rondon and his 101-mph fastball had the potential to be an X-factor in the Tigers' bullpen for their American League Division Series. Right now, though, he's not throwing at all, his elbow still bothered by inflammation.
Neither is Phil Coke, whose flexor forearm tendinitis continues to sideline him. As a result, both relievers have been all but ruled out for this series, leaving Detroit's bullpen short.
"They will not be ready for the first round," manager Jim Leyland said. Game 1 is Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET on TBS.
Rondon has pitched in only one game since Labor Day, so the Tigers know how to get by without him. Considering how well he pitched in that one game last week in Minnesota, they're missing out on something special.
Rondon missed three weeks with elbow discomfort before striking out the side in order on just 10 pitches last Tuesday against the Twins. He threw four fastballs at 100 or 101 mph, but it was his slider -- a pitch that normally puts more stress on the elbow -- that seemed to give Minnesota hitters fits.
"Rondon would've been a nice piece, no question about it," Leyland said. "The performance up there in Minnesota was lightning."
Rondon said after that game he felt fine, but came down with more soreness the next day.
"It was difficult for me," Rondon said through a translator, "because I thought I was going to feel good after it. It was a great outing, but I felt discomfort again. It's very disappointing."
The soreness isn't as intense now, but until it's gone, he won't be cleared to pitch.
"I feel bad," Rondon said, "because I wanted to help this team in the first round. Everybody dreams of going to the playoffs."
Coke, whose flexor issues have hampered him even when he has been able to pitch, was on track to have a chance at the postseason before continued soreness during a brief mound session Wednesday sidelined him again. He spent the weekend rehabbing back in Detroit.
Both injuries leave the Tigers with some decisions to make on their postseason roster. Leyland said he'd like to have two left-handers in his bullpen. If he sticks to that, he would have to choose between Jose Alvarez and Darin Downs to put alongside Drew Smyly.
Both injuries could put more responsibility on Al Alburquerque, whose slider makes him both a situational strikeout reliever and a weapon against left-handed hitters.
"The responsibility falls to a good situation if he's right," Leyland said of Alburquerque, "because left-handers hit about .195 off him for his career. That's almost like having another left-hander."
Another pitcher whose role could increase as a result could be Rick Porcello, who will pitch out of the bullpen for a second consecutive postseason. Normally, the fifth starter fills a long relief role in the playoffs, but Leyland isn't tagging any role to Porcello.
"I'm going to play it by ear," Leyland said, "particularly in the first series, because each game is so important."