Is Phil Coke the Tigers' new closer?

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Is Phil Coke the Tigers' new closer?

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Jose Valverde didn't finish Game 2 of the AL championship series for the Detroit Tigers but retains his closer's role for now."I guess that sounds like I am mud watching, but I am really not," manager Jim Leyland said. "We will do some work with him."Valverde allowed a tying two-run double to Oakland's Seth Smith on Wednesday in Game 4 of the AL division series as Detroit lost 4-3, then gave up two-run homers in the ninth inning to the Yankees' Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez in Saturday's ALCS opener. Detroit rebounded to win 6-4 in 12 innings.Left-hander Phil Coke, who had just one save in each of the last two regular seasons, got the final six outs and allowed only one hit in the Tigers' 3-0 win Sunday."It's a tough game. You've got to be able to step up when called upon, and luckily I was able to do that," said Coke, acquired by Detroit from the Yankees following the 2009 season.After converting all 49 save chances during the 2011 regular season, Valverde was 35 for 40 this year. Leyland and pitching coach Jeff Jones were examining 34-year-old right-hander's delivery at 3 a.m."It is way too slow. The tempo is not good at all," Leyland said. "I don't even know if I am right about it, I probably shouldn't say it, but I will say it anyway, it almost appears to me that it looks like he is kind of waiting for something bad to happen. And I don't know if I am accurate on that, I may be totally wrong. But sometimes when you read a player, you can see that he's not quite as confident. And he is normally very confident. But I think there is something to this mechanical part of that. I definitely think that."He said before the game he planned to make his decision based on matchups."I cannot give you one name. I have a suggestion box down by my office," Leyland said. "The last three outs are very tough to get, and it takes a special cat in a lot of cases to do that."New York's batting order caused him to pick Coke."Today it went fine because we were really, really lucky to be honest with you," Leyland said. "Things fell in place."Coke assumes closing will not become a regular task. He expects to see Valverde pitching in the ninth inning soon."I think he absolutely has the ability to get back on track really quickly because, number one, he's a closer. That's what closers do," Coke said. "They have a bad game. They get it figured out, and they go back out there and do their job."

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

Tom E. Curran in the Cumberland Farms lounge joins Sports Tonight to discuss what he thinks it will be like when Roger Goodell attends the Patriots home opener on September 7.

Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

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Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

PHOENIX -- Rex Burkhead was buried on a deep running back depth chart in Cincinnati, but in New England he may finally have a chance to show his offensive value. That's how Burkhead's former running backs coach and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson feels, at least.

Before he was hired as Browns head coach last season, Jackson worked closely with Burkhead for three years and saw the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder's versatile skill set on a daily basis. With the Patriots, under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Jackson believes Burkhead has a chance to see that skill set maximized. 

"He's very talented," Jackson said during the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "He's a guy that was playing behind some very talented players [with the Bengals], and so he's going to get his opportunity now, and he's going to flourish. He's a really good player. A really good player.

"He's very versatile because he's a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He's a good blocker. He's very bright. He's been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team."

The Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal earlier this offseason that could pay him more than $3 million -- a sign that they're hoping he'll factor heavily into the offense in 2017. With LeGarrette Blount still on the free-agent market, Burkhead is currently the biggest back on the Patriots roster alongside Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster, and he could be in line for a significant amount of work in short-yardage situations and on first and second down.

Burkhead served primarily as a special-teamer during his four-year career in Cincinnati, but in Week 17 of last season, because of injuries to his teammates at the position, he was the Bengals lead back and ran 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. We took a closer look at the qualities he put on display that day right here

It was a performance that gave Burkhead's profile a where-did-that-come-from type of boost as he headed toward unrestricted free agency, but his head coach at the time wasn't surprised.

"Not at all. That's why we drafted him," said Bengals sideline boss Marvin Lewis, who went on to explain why Burkhead was an inconsistent offensive contributor leading up to that game.

"A lot of times when Rex got opportunities to play, he wasn't quite 100 percent and so that kind of limited him some. Even in preseason opportunities and so forth like that where you'd go into the game, and it'd be Rex's -- in my mind, Rex's ballgame -- to carry the ball in the first or second quarter and he wasn't able to suit up that day.

"That's one of the things he's battled over his career is just being 100 percent completely healthy. [But] he's just a hard-working guy who always wants to be out there."

And in New England, it looks like he'll have the chance to be out there more.