DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland chose his words carefully Wednesday night when asked if he was worried about left-hander Phil Coke's struggles.
"Obviously, we need to get him going, so I would say that ... Concerned? A little bit. But in a panic mode? No," Leyland said. "But we've got to get him going. He's very important for us, because our other two lefties are very inexperienced. So it'll be important to get him going. It's just a matter of him getting the ball where he's trying to get it."
Leyland expounded on those comments Thursday.
"I thought his velocity was better [Wednesday]," Leyland said. "He's just having, up to this point, a funny year. But we've got to get it changed, because he's very important for us. [Duane] Below's really not an ideal specialist lefty guy. He's a long guy and a good one."
"Up here, the bottom line is the bottom line. It's about results. But I do think Cokey threw the ball much better [Wednesday], and he had a tough confrontation with [Eric] Chavez, who did a heck off a job."
The Chavez at-bat lasted 11 pitches, including seven foul balls, before Chavez slapped a ground ball to second for an RBI groundout. The vast majority of those pitches were curveballs.
Coke threw 25 pitches, 21 of them for strikes. Just two of those strikes, however, were swings and misses. That might be a statement about his breaking ball more than his velocity or command.
"I see some that are sharp and some that aren't," Leyland said. "That's just an observation from the bench. When you see the one that's got the late bite, they usually miss it. And you see the one that just kind of goes, they foul it off. And that's what Chavez did."
Tigers benefit from strange play against Yankees
DETROIT -- Had Detroit maintained the slim lead it held from the fourth inning to the eighth during a 4-3 loss Thursday, the story would not have centered around relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit's issues. It would have been about a curious play in the fourth inning.
With the game knotted at 2, Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks hit a bloop double that just caught the outer edge of the left-field line and rolled under left fielder Raul Ibanez's glove. Third-base umpire Tim Welke initially put his hands up -- signaling foul ball -- before quickly changing his mind and calling it fair. The play allowed Quintin Berry to score the go-ahead run from first base.
"It was unique to say the least," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after the game.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi left the dugout to argue and put on an entertaining show for the sellout crowd of 40,940 at Comerica Park.
A screaming Girardi went chest to chest with Welke for a few minutes before eventually being ejected. On his way off the field and back to the clubhouse, Girardi threw his hands up in the air, imitating Welke's original call.
"These are important games," Girardi said. "When an umpire clearly makes a wrong call and it costs us, what you think? I'm going to sit on my hands? Come on."
The skipper was still steaming after the game, even with the Yankees' victory.
"It changes the complexion of the game," Girardi said. "I'm going to get a fine for them making a mistake. That's frustrating to me."
Girardi believed Ibanez misplayed the ball because of Welke's first signal. Welke said after reviewing the play, it was clear to him it had no effect on the game.
"I started to put my hands up in the air -- I was a little quick -- then I saw the ball hit the chalk line and I pointed fair about three times," Welke told a pool reporter.
"I've watched the replay, and I don't think there was any impact on the outfielder. I don't think Ibanez ever even saw me. We got the call right."
The person most affected by the play actually might have been Berry.
Berry sprinted around second and was preparing to head home when he hesitated upon seeing Welke's hands in the air. Fortunately for the Tigers, he quickly realized what happened and continued to score the run.
"I thought it was foul. When he threw his hands up I thought that might be what he was throwing his hands up for," Berry said. "I was kind of startled for a second, then saw him point in. So I took off again.
"I just saw the ball land on the line and the umpire throw his hands up. I didn't know what the call was ... But it ended up working out for us at the time."
Leyland wants callups to be able to help club
DETROIT -- The Tigers haven't made any decisions yet on September callups. The serious discussions won't come until the next week or two. Still, the question is bound to come up about the Tigers' top remaining prospects, Nick Castellanos and Bruce Rondon.
Manager Jim Leyland knows it, because it's coming up in interviews. He leaves the decisions to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and assistant Al Avila, but Leyland goes back to his rule of thumb on September callups: If they can't help the team, they shouldn't be here.
"I don't want to get my boss mad at me, but somebody asked [in an interview] if you just bring him up here to see what it's like in the big leagues," Leyland said. "No, I don't think you do that. That's just my opinion. I think you bring him up if you think he can help the club. And that's the way I feel about anybody. I don't want the clubhouse getting all cluttered up. I never have.
"Sometimes you look for specialists, like a speed guy or a defensive guy, but we're already talking about six outfielders that I can only play four. If we have somebody down in the Minor Leagues that's better than the six we've got, they should probably be here now. I don't think that's the case."
It's a slightly different scenario for a pitcher, who can eat innings in a blowout. Still, Leyland indicated, that difference isn't drastic.
There's a good chance, Leyland indicated, they'll bring up an extra catcher as a backup for situations such as last Sunday, when Gerald Laird's ejection left Alex Avila as the only catcher available. Bryan Holaday, who spent a stretch in Detroit earlier this season when Avila and Laird were injured, would appear to be the likely candidate for that. Danny Worth has at least a decent shot to return as an extra infielder.
After that, however, Leyland is leaving the decisions to the front office.
"Dave and Al do a very thorough job at that," Leyland said. "They've always been very good with me about that. They know my feelings on it. I don't like to bring 10, 12 guys up here because there's just too much going on and your concentration and preparation is for the game, trying to get involved in the playoffs and stuff. But I do think you use common sense."
Ankle soreness forces Miggy to DH in finale
DETROIT -- For the second time in five days, the Tigers started Miguel Cabrera at designated hitter Thursday. If it works out as manager Jim Leyland hopes, it'll be the last time for a while.
"I think if I can get him off his feet one more day, we can pretty much be over the hump with that [sore left] ankle," Leyland said before a 4-3 loss to the Yankees. "It's still pretty sore. So that's why I had to make that adjustment."
Cabrera went 1-for-4 against the Yankees.
The sore ankle came from a foul ball off Cabrera's left shin, which caused drainage to his ankle. He was the DH on Sunday against Cleveland in a similar scenario, with a day game after a night game.
That game featured a lefty starter for the Indians and a righty-loaded lineup for the Tigers. Thursday, the Tigers faced right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, and Leyland used an outfield composed of all left-handed hitters -- Quintin Berry in center, Andy Dirks in left and Brennan Boesch in right.
Austin Jackson got a day out of the starting lineup for the first time since he returned from the disabled list two months ago, though he pinch-ran in the sixth and later batted.
"He's getting a well-deserved rest," Leyland said. "We're going to Texas. It's going to be hot. I'm getting Berry in there. He's done a good job."
Jackson's 11-game hitting streak was snapped, and he went 3-for-15 with six strikeouts over the four-game set with the Yankees.
Kelly clears waivers, outrighted to Triple-A
DETROIT -- Don Kelly might still end up back in a Tigers uniform. The utilityman, designated for assignment last weekend with Andy Dirks' return from the disabled list, cleared waivers and had his contract outrighted to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday.
Kelly has enough service time that he can choose to decline the assignment, but confirmed Thursday night that he decided to accept.
Kelly would still have to go through some maneuvering to be eligible for a September callup when rosters expand. He would have to be added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full.
Kelly's versatility could be an appeal for the Tigers down the stretch as an extra player. He clearly can handle sitting for long stretches between playing opportunities, something that can be difficult for younger players who are used to being regulars in the minors.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.