DETROIT -- Mention the word bullying and look at Phil Coke's intimidating stature on the mound, and the first reaction would be that he probably pushed people around when he was growing up.
In reality, it was the opposite. And now that Coke is in a position to make a difference, he's speaking out against bullying.
Coke spent part of the Tigers' off-day on Monday speaking before Attorney General Eric Holder's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, which held its final public hearing this week.
"There's just things that can and should be done instead of turning a blind eye to it," Coke said on Tuesday. "Light is being shed on it, and it's for a good reason. And things that I heard yesterday, like school shootings, it comes down to the kid having an issue because he was picked on by a group of kids, so he took matters into his hands. There's no reason for that to happen, none. That's an extreme case, but on a day-to-day basis, we can keep that kind of stuff from happening if we're just willing to pay a little more attention."
Coke was subjected to bullying in high school and got into trouble for defending himself. Some of the bullying was as simple as making fun of his name. Other incidents were physical.
"Trying to rip my underwear off, throw it up in a tree because I was a freshman, that kind of stuff," he said. "We all went through something of that nature, but at the same time, I don't know if there's really room, because I almost got in a fistfight defending myself, because I had five or six football players I was fighting off. It was a group of friends, but they were all upperclassmen, so they had the age factor on me.
"Whatever they had gone through when they were freshmen, people like to pass on the tradition, but at the same time, you're not really passing on a tradition. You just want to get retribution. People can take that stuff too far."
The task force is part of Holder's Defending Childhood Initiative to reduce and prevent kids' exposure to violence. The task force will present policy recommendations later this year.
Among those on the task force is Hall of Famer Joe Torre, who serves as co-chairman, and who threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's game against the Mariners. Coke served as his catcher.
Fister ready to throw but timetable unclear
DETROIT -- Doug Fister appears to be ready to throw again as he recovers from an injury to his left rib cage, but the timetable for him to throw off a mound again, or start a rehab assignment, remains unclear.
Fister was expected to play catch during batting practice on Tuesday. Assuming that went off without a hitch, he would start a throwing progression that would include long-tossing from increasing distances before a full-fledged mound session.
"He came in [on Monday], got treated, did some really tough exercising and passed that with flying colors," manager Jim Leyland said. "I really don't have any timetable."
Because Fister has missed so much time since sustaining the injury two and a half weeks ago, he's expected to need a full progression of workouts before coming back. That pretty much rules out a return before the calendar changes from April to May.
Dirks could be back as a pinch-hitter
DETROIT -- The Tigers are about to get outfielder Andy Dirks back, at least in a pinch-hitting capacity. The left-handed hitter took batting practice again on Sunday and had the potential to hit in Tuesday night's opener with the Mariners.
Manager Jim Leyland said before Tuesday's game that he would wait to decide whether he could use Dirks. With left-hander Jason Vargas starting for Seattle, there was no need for a left-handed hitter in the lineup, and thus no temptation to start Dirks.
"I chose tonight to sit him out," Leyland said after Tuesday's loss, "because my report on him [from the medical staff] was that he could pinch-hit, but he could not play in the outfield. ... So I just decided to shut him down totally. I mean, why take a chance? To me, that just puts you in a red zone. You're flirting with trouble."
Dirks hasn't played since he tweaked his left hamstring rounding third base a week ago at Kansas City. He has been classified as day-to-day ever since.
Wilk latest to fall victim to hot-foot prank
DETROIT -- Utility man Don Kelly pitched in one game and caught another last season, but his most replayed highlight might have been the hot-foot that Justin Verlander pulled on him. He can now welcome Adam Wilk to his club.
Wilk already had a dugout incident, when Prince Fielder's line drive hit him in the shoulder two weeks ago, but his teammates caught him unaware on Sunday afternoon as they lit his right shoe on fire.
"I was talking with [Max] Scherzer about him facing [Mariners starter Jason] Vargas," Wilk said on Tuesday.
In reality, Scherzer was providing the distraction so Gerald Laird could light up Wilk's shoe. While Scherzer kept talking, the flame kept climbing.
"They finally had to get my attention," Wilk said, "because the fire got up to my leg. ... Somebody yelled 'Smoke!' so I took my hat off."
Unlike Kelly's, Wilk's incident wasn't caught on camera, and it didn't become public until Wilk tweeted about it on Monday.