DETROIT -- Phil Coke doesn't throw a side session in the bullpen before a game very often. When he threw a particularly long one before Sunday's game in Oakland, it was a pretty big deal.
When he felt the difference in Tuesday's game at Chicago, it was a pretty big reward for him.
"I felt much better," Coke said Wednesday. "I felt a lot smoother in my delivery. For my efforts, I was glad I was paid with a zero."
Coke said Sunday he didn't feel like his delivery was in sync mechanically, and it was costing him velocity and accuracy on his pitches.
Coke's fastball velocity is actually up almost a full mile an hour from last season, according to fangraphs.com. He entered Wednesday averaging 92.9 mph, compared with 92.0 last year. However, he spent nearly half of last season in the rotation, and wasn't throwing as hard as a starter.
Coke's velocity is down from 2010, his last full season as a reliever, when his fastball averaged 93.6 mph.
"I know I feel strong," Coke said Sunday. "It's just not there the way it should be."
Lower back strain puts Valverde on the shelf
DETROIT -- Jose Valverde will likely not get a save chance against the Twins, no matter what the Tigers do. He's expected to miss the next couple days with what was diagnosed as a lower back strain.
Valverde said he underwent an MRI on Tuesday, and the results came back fine. The Tigers have listed him as day to day, but Valverde doesn't believe it'll be any more than a couple days.
"I don't want to be out for two months [with an aggravation]," Valverde said. "I'll take a couple days and be ready for Pittsburgh [this weekend]."
Valverde said the back wasn't bothering him while he was warming up in the bullpen on Tuesday. The first time he felt tightness and soreness was the second pitch he threw to the White Sox Adam Dunn. He pitched to three more batters after that before he winced on a 2-1 pitch to Alex Rios, prompting catcher Alex Avila to signal for head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.
In the meantime, manager Jim Leyland said setup man Joaquin Benoit will "probably be" the closer. The exception would be if Benoit has thrown a couple more days or the matchups beg for somebody else, such as left-hander Phil Coke.
The Tigers don't expect to lose Valverde long enough to put him on the disabled list. For now, however, they decided to go with an extra reliever, recalling right-hander Brayan Villarreal from Triple-A Toledo. Infielder Danny Worth was optioned to Toledo to make room.
"That's a move we didn't want to make, but it's obviously attributed to the Valverde situation," Leyland said. "We don't know when he's going to be ready to pitch, and obviously we can't pitch short down there, as you saw tonight. Danny Worth is just the victim of a situation. It's too bad, but we've got to get another arm up here."
Dotel's save earns him spot in MLB history
DETROIT -- If there's one snapshot of Octavio Dotel's well-traveled career, it was in the Tigers' clubhouse Wednesday: Jerseys from all 13 of his Major League stops were hanging in his locker, unpacked from a box by fellow reliever Joaquin Benoit.
Dotel's 13 teams are a Major League record. He took his share of another record when he collected the save in Tuesday's win over the White Sox, making the Tigers the ninth team for which he has collected a save.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Dotel is tied with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage for the Major League mark. Dotel had been tied for second place with Lee Smith.
Seven relievers are tied for fourth on the list with seven teams, including former Tiger Todd Jones.
Early-season slumps don't worry McClendon
DETROIT -- Whenever Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon is asked about slow starts, he likes to bring up the story of his old teammate, Barry Bonds.
Thirty-six games into the 1991 season, Bonds was batting under .200. He had just two home runs on the year until a two-homer game in that 36th contest. He ended up batting .323 with 23 homers and 100 RBIs in his final 122 games, and finished runner-up in NL MVP balloting to Terry Pendleton.
McClendon's point isn't that Ryan Raburn can win MVP honors. It's that April and May hitting becomes a distant memory by September, and guys with track records of hitting usually end up hitting.
"It doesn't matter how you start," McClendon said.
Raburn still understands the frustration over his slow start, because he's frustrated at himself. After all the extra work he put in during the offseason to prepare himself for a better start, he's back where he usually has been this time of year.
"It's an irritating routine I've had for the past few years, you know," he said Sunday, "but it's definitely something I've dealt with and gone through before. So it's nothing new, just it's not real fun. Like I said, you just keep battling and grinding it out, and eventually it's going to click."
He had some harder-hit drives in Oakland last week that went for outs, then broke out of a hitless streak with a ninth-inning double Sunday. His two hits and four RBIs Tuesday, including a three-run homer, was a stronger sign.
Daniel Schlereth will stay close to home in Colorado to rehab his injured left shoulder after an examination from Rockies team physician Dr. Tom Noonan at the Steadman-Hawkins clinic in Denver revealed no structural damage. Schlereth, who has been diagnosed with left shoulder tendinitis, will work out with physical therapist Mike Allen until he's ready to resume baseball activities.
Ramon Santiago started at shortstop for the third time in seven days Wednesday. Part of it was the matchup against Nick Blackburn, against whom Jhonny Peralta is just 5-for-26. "The other thing," manager Jim Leyland said, "is that we have to try to get Santiago (8-for-52 entering Wednesday) going a little bit, too."
Leyland said Tuesday's comeback victory "was one of the best wins I've enjoyed in my career. ... I think it shows the type of team we have."