The Detroit Tigers announced today that they have placed lefty reliever Phil Coke on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 26th, for a left adductor muscle/groin strain. Coke, who has struggled thus far in 2013, is currently 0-3 with a 8.31 ERA, 3.94 FIP, and a 54 ERA+ in 8.2 innings pitched. While enjoying a career high 10.4 K/9 so far this season, Coke has also suffered from a career worst 5.2 BB/9 and 31.8 percent groundball rate.
Starting the season as the Tigers closer after proving a reliable late inning option after an impressive 2012 postseason which saw him surrender only 1 run in 12.2 innings pitched, Coke has seen his innings and effectiveness dwindle, with his groin injury affecting his pitches, both in terms of velocity and location. Overall in 2013, Coke has seen both his fastball and sinker lose some velocity as compared to previous years -- Coke's fastball currently averages 92.4 MPH, while his sinker sits at 91.8 MPH, with his career averages for each pitch at 93.8 and 93.1 MPH, respectively. In the past week, since Coke has conceded that he was having issues with the groin, Coke's outings have been plagued with an inability to consistently throw strikes, in particular his fastball.
Regarding the injury, the adductor muscles of the inner leg -- collectively referred to as the groin -- are responsible for pulling the upper leg and knee towards the midline of the body when contracted. They provide stability while running and walking, and are of particular importance in performing side-to-side movements.
An injury to the left groin is particularly troublesome for Coke. For lefthanders, the left leg is their balance leg, and injury to the adductor muscles can create difficulties in proper leg and trunk rotation, as they drive towards home plate with their delivery. Difficulties in pulling the balance leg through as the pitcher comes to release point and releases the ball due to injured adductor muscles can create a situation where the left leg is dragging behind and not fully rotating through the delivery. This can cause difficulties in locating pitches and can also lead to arm injuries if not properly remedied.
Detroit will still be in good shape with respect to their bullpen fortunes while Coke is on the DL. Recently re-signed closer Jose Valverde looks to have regained the form of 2011, which saw him save 49 games to the tune of a 185 ERA+, while fellow southpaws Drew Smyly (0.944 WHIP, 290 ERA+) and Darin Downs (0.889 WHIP, 148 ERA+) appear more than capable of handling lefty platoon duties.
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