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Sonora's Coke could start for Tigers

INDIANAPOLIS -- A team you might have followed reached the World Series without having a left-hander make a start all season: the 1984 Tigers. The first team that Jim Leyland followed reached the World Series without having a left-hander in its rotation: the '54 Indians, who finished 111-43-2.

Despite those examples, many baseball people probably would agree with something Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday morning: "Ideally, you'd like to have three right-handed starters and two left-handed starters."

Right now, Dombrowski doesn't have any lefties.

And that's why left-hander Phil Coke, the Sonora High graduate who has never started in the majors, could be in the Tigers' rotation next season. Acquired from the Yankees in this week's three-team trade, Coke started often in the minors.

"I want the ball no matter what," said Coke, 27, who played a key role out of the bullpen for the world champions.

"I don't mind the title that I have. I may be labeled as a reliever, but I'm just as capable as a starter. If you want me to go nine innings, cool, no problem."

The Tigers can try Coke as a starter because they already have a bevy of left-handed relievers. Incumbents Bobby Seay, Fu-Te Ni and Nate Robertson could be joined by this week's newcomers, Brad Thomas (signed as a free agent) and Daniel Schlereth (acquired from Arizona in the trade), next season.

Asked Thursday about the possibility of Coke in the rotation, Dombrowski said, "There's a chance, by all means. Our people liked him in the minors as a starter, and he had good numbers. Those will be some discussions that we have.

"I'm not making any declaration, because we haven't made any decision. I wouldn't be surprised if he had the opportunity to be one of our starters."

In his last season spent primarily as a starter, Coke went 9-4 with a 2.51 ERA in Double-A in 2008.

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