July 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

Lynn Henning

Jim Leyland, Phil Coke speak volumes with their silence after aggravating loss

Detroit — Incidents, conversations, and blood pressure readings were all part of Thursday’s game at Comerica Park, in which the White Sox tussled their way to a 6-3 victory over the Tigers. Remnants from the fires that raged on a furious day at Woodward and Montcalm included:

Jim Leyland refuses to talk with the media after a messy day of bad baseball and hot tempers

Leyland did a fine impression of an active volcano during the sixth inning of the game that had the Tigers and Leyland fuming on multiple fronts.

The manager exploded when, a half-inning after Chris Sale unleashed a fastball that nearly de-bearded Prince Fielder, Luke Putkonen answered with a pitch behind the back of Alexei Ramirez.

Putkonen was tossed and, soon, so was Leyland after he understandably went berserk in a series of rants against an umpiring crew headed by Jeff Kellogg. The manager was scalded that Putkonen had been heaved after Sale had been judged innocent for his tower-buzzing, 94-mph fastball that came one pitch after Miguel Cabrera homered.

Leyland might also have been mad at himself for having allowed Anibal Sanchez to pitch to Josh Phegley in the sixth when Sanchez was running out of gas. Phegley, a weak-batting No. 9 hitter, poked a grand slam into the left-field bullpen, which gave the last-place White Sox a series victory.

You can appreciate another reality. Leyland is weary of relief pitchers who can’t seem to find their way.

Phil Coke is front and center there. Rather than deal with questions about the umpires, about his ejection, about Coke, about having stuck with Sanchez, the manager obviously concluded there were no great answers and that there was every chance he would blow his stack — again.

He earns some slack there. There are days when candor will only get you into trouble. This was the first time in memory Leyland has not opened his office to media questions afterward.

Leyland’s mistake was not to have said as much when the cameras and reporters showed up. An audience at-large wanted to hear from the manager following a game that had rocked the Richter scale. Rather than have staffers steer media into the clubhouse for 25 minutes, only to relay word later that he wasn’t talking, Leyland should have simply told his questioners and audience afterward: “Folks, I have no comments today on the game or on anything relating to it.”

And that would have been that. It was the way the postgame sequence was handled that was not in keeping with Leyland’s normal up-front manner.

On multiple fronts it was simply a bad game and bad day for Detroit’s baseball team.

Coke doesn't want to hear about it

Coke’s numbers are hard to fathom: He is 0-5. He bears a 6.18 ERA. He has not had a 1-2-3 inning since June 18. He allowed a home run and walked three batters Thursday in one-third of an inning.

He turns 31 next week. He also has minor league options remaining.

The left-handed reliever acknowledged, “I’m in a funk right now.” Given his admission, he was asked if it might be necessary to work out his ills at Triple A Toledo.

Coke did not appreciate the question, which was pretty much communicated by a 30-second stare as hot as an incendiary bomb.

But the question needed to be asked. The Tigers cannot survive with erratic bullpen performers. They cannot continue to believe Coke will turn it around when his numbers and his outings have slipped into critical condition.

Brayan Villarreal and Jose Ortega have been pitching well at Toledo. Villarreal is throwing more strikes, and Ortega has one of the best arms in the system. They have been all over the place in Detroit, but at this stage, the Tigers can’t be overly picky.

Coke is having a miserable time and, no matter how insulted he might be by thoughts of Toledo, he needs to find consistency he hasn’t approached this season.

Justin Verlander has some fans worried

This is what happens when you win Cy Young Awards and MVP trophies and enter the year dubbed as the best pitcher in baseball. You accustom the world to a different standard.

Justin Verlander has had his moments this season. He got beat up by the White Sox late in Tuesday’s game, but only after he had allowed one run through seven innings. He is 9-6 with a 3.71 ERA.

You know what a team does with a pitcher who carries those numbers? If he’s on your roster, and unless a guy named Max Scherzer is 13-0, you probably regard him as your ace. If he’s not, you wish to heaven you had him.

Verlander, on a list of current Tigers concerns, is 1,167th.


Tigers catcher Brayan Pena offers encouragement to reliever Phil Coke as the left-hander had another rough outing Thursday. / Robin Buckson/Detroit News