DETROIT -- Phil Coke knows the frustration that fans are feeling, because he feels the same.
He's trying to find the consistency with his pitches, trying to shore up the offspeed pitches that he needs to be an effective left-handed reliever. For one inning, he seems to have it. For the inning after that, he seems to be lost.
Coke's description of the difference Thursday from his strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury to end the seventh inning to the back-to-back four-pitch walks he issued to Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia leading off the eighth might well sum it up.
"When I was out there for my first inning … I felt like I was in really good physical position, I was picking my leg and going towards the plate," Coke said. "And then in the second inning, I felt like I was standing straight up."
Friday's appearance, results-wise, was much the same. He needed just 10 pitches to send down David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava in order in the seventh inning, then fell behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew on back-to-back 2-0 counts to start the eighth. Saltalamacchia walked on five pitches before Drew's double into the right-field corner moved Boston's catcher to third. Both eventually scored.
"We had two guys batting .172 against left-handers, but we just didn't get either one of them out," manager Jim Leyland said. "That kind of opened up the floodgates a little bit, but I thought he was better."
Ironically, Coke's stats on the season suggest he's better when he gets deeper into an outing. Opponents are batting .258 (16-for-62) with four doubles, 11 RBIs and 17 strikeouts against him in his first 15 pitches, and just 3-for-14 off him in his next 15 pitches. The problem with the latter has been four walks.
"There's no excuse for any of it," Coke said. "I'm really displeased with the way I've been throwing as of late. Well, as of late I've been way, way improved, but it hasn't been where it's supposed to be. I think I might be letting that weigh on my mind way too much."
Avila to start rehab stint Sunday in Toledo
DETROIT -- If Alex Avila wasn't on the 15-day disabled list, he thinks he may have been able to play in Saturday's game against the Red Sox. Unfortunately, he'll have to settle for a rehab assignment when he heads to Triple-A Toledo on Sunday.
"Swelling is down," Avila said. "A couple of days ago was the first time the swelling went down to where I was actually able to swing the bat a little bit and stuff. Each day it has gotten better and better, and today I feel as good as new."
Avila was hit by a pitch on his left forearm last week against the Twins and immediately left the game. He was placed on the DL on Monday, and the earliest he can return is July 2. He expects to return on that date, and will likely be the designated hitter for his first game or two back in the Minors before returning behind the plate.
"[I'm] very anxious. It's killing me just to watch," Avila said. "I don't like watching, especially when I haven't played in a week; for me it's felt like a month. I just want to play baseball."
After returning to baseball activities Thursday, Avila has felt some lingering soreness but he's not worried about it being a problem.
"I think that's just more that I've had four or five days off and really not doing much other than kind of working out in the gym a little bit," Avila said. "So the last couple days doing baseball activities, it was a little sore, but nothing that's a major concern."
Hunter pulls out old trick for former teammate
DETROIT -- Torii Hunter played with Mike Napoli for three seasons with the Angels, and Hunter says Napoli should have known better.
In the fifth inning Friday, Napoli was on first base when Boston's Daniel Nava hit a routine fly ball to Hunter in right field. Hunter put his hands up, as if he didn't know where the ball was, before making the catch, and firing to first to double off Napoli.
"I was just kind of dekeing him a little bit, and when I caught the ball, I looked up and saw he was still off the bag," Hunter said. "And I just gave it my best effort on the throw and got him out. So he fell for the banana in the tailpipe."
Manager Jim Leyland says that's not the only time Hunter has been known to fool people.
"He does that a lot," Leyland said. "He's pretty good. He's run up like he's going to catch a couple this year, and I don't know, they landed about 40 rows up, so he might have just been teasing somebody."
Tigers have faith in reliever Alburquerque
DETROIT -- The Tigers know the deal with Al Alburquerque; he's a high-strikeout reliever who will also give up a high amount of walks. They don't expect him to be a model of strike command in his return, but they believe he's better than he was when his walks led to his demotion last month.
As much as the Tigers have struggled to find a right-handed reliever to complement Joaquin Benoit, they're willing to live with what Alburquerque brings to the table.
"I don't think he's going to be pinpoint," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "That's not how he was even when he was effective. He feels good about himself. He feels like he's ready to come back here and help us."
Alburquerque didn't allow a ball out of the infield to any of the six Red Sox batters he faced Friday. His two walks were intentional, and the first run he allowed came on a ground ball that was deep enough for Jarrod Saltalamacchia to beat the throw home on a close call at the plate. The second run, however, scored on a wild pitch.
"I thought he threw the ball fine his first time back," manager Jim Leyland said.
Alburquerque said Saturday he's trying to relax and pitch without getting hung up on mechanics. If he can do that, he'll take his chances.
Leyland hopes Jackson's hamstring injury doesn't linger
DETROIT -- A week since returning from the 15-day disabled list, Austin Jackson sat out Friday's game, showing how delicate a hamstring injury can be.
Is this going to be a lingering problem for Jackson?
"I hope not," manager Jim Leyland said. "He felt like yesterday, he probably should take a day off, so I gave him a day off. I hope it's not something that's going to linger, I hope not. I'm just playing it accordingly."
Jackson, who was on the DL with a left hamstring strain, was back in center field and the leadoff spot for Saturday's game against the Red Sox.
• Anibal Sanchez, who went on the 15-day disabled list earlier this week with a right shoulder strain, threw a thorough long-toss session before Saturday's game. It was an encouraging sign toward what the Tigers hope is his quick return. Sanchez is eligible to come off the DL on July 1, the same day his spot in the rotation is scheduled to come up.
• Matt Tuiasosopo said he's hoping his stay on the 15-day DL will be minimal, but he likely won't resume baseball activities until the Tigers hit the road next weekend. The Tigers' medical staff wants to give him ample time for his intercostal strain to calm down first to try to minimize the risk of re-injury.
• The Tigers are promoting former Rule 5 Draft pick Kyle Lobstein from Double-A Erie to Triple-A to join the Mud Hens' rotation. The 23-year-old left-hander went 7-4 with a 3.12 ERA at Erie, finishing with five consecutive quality starts.
• Also promoted on Friday was relief prospect Melvin Mercedes, from Class A Lakeland to Erie, after a dominant first half closing for the Flying Tigers. The 22-year-old Mercedes, who made an impression on Tigers officials in Spring Training, went 3-1 with 11 saves in 14 chances at Lakeland, allowing three earned runs on 23 hits over 28 innings, with five walks and 17 strikeouts. He also allowed just two of 11 inherited runners to score.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @nightengalejr. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.