March 31st, 2011
Phil Coke was asked before Thursday’s game about the feeling of going back out to the bullpen after working all spring to become a starter.
“It’s kind of like a reunion,” Coke said.
It was a familiar spot, but unfamiliar results when he entered.
Coke admitted it was “a little bit weird” being back in relief, but wouldn’t use that as an excuse for the 2-0 fastball he threw to Curtis Granderson, who sent it out to right field for a go-ahead home run. He didn’t make his pitches, he said, and in his eyes, he ended up costing them the game.
“I knew who I was facing,” Coke said. “It wasn’t about who I was facing. I just didn’t make my pitches, and I paid for it.”
Coke wouldn’t use the cold weather as a reason, either.
“So what? I can’t control that,” Coke said. “My job is to go out there and throw strikes, and I didn’t to the first guy I faced. And he ended up leaving the yard on me because I couldn’t throw a strike.”
Leyland said he turned to Coke in the seventh because of his experience. He said in the final days of Spring Training that there was one inning in the game that worried him. He wouldn’t say which, but given the way his bullpen shakes out and where Joel Zumaya would’ve fit, it isn’t a stretch to see the seventh as that inning.
“Really he was really our veteran guy down there,” Leyland said. “We felt like we might as well take advantage of that going into this game. He’s not going to pitch until [April] 9th, and he has the experience coming out of there moreso than some of the other guys. What happened to him is he just got behind Granderson and he left no doubt what was coming, and Grandy just kind of charged it.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Coke handles this, and the next week or so until he prepares for his April 9 start. Part of the challenge for him this spring was to shed the reliever’s mentality of focusing everything on one inning, and now he has to go back to it. He made the full-out sprint from the bullpen to the mound after God Bless America, and he was obviously beating himself up over the home run. That mentality, like his relief role, has to be temporary.
That regular-season urgency that was evident in Max Scherzer’s voice after his Monday debacle was much more laid back Thursday. He sounds more relaxed and relieved that the issues that helped him give up 12 runs over 2 1/3 innings against the Orioles in his Spring Training were fixed in a lengthy side session Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
As he first suspected, he had the same mechanical issues that bothered him early last season and took a stint at Triple-A Toledo to fix. He knew how to correct them, but he had to step back and get into the bullpen to fix them. Once he made the changes, he could tell in his pitches that he was lined up right.
Just in case, Scherzer planned to throw again in the bullpen Thursday morning to polish up everything. The tweaks should give him back his fastball command at top velocity to mix with his changeup and an improved slider.
Scherzer makes his first regular-season start here on Sunday.
The conditions at Yankee Stadium are really cold today. Temperatures might have crept under 40. It’s damp and it’s windy. Sounds like perfect conditions for two hard-throwing starting pitchers who can jam hitters inside, right?
Well, yeah. But that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily be a low-scoring game, the way Jim Leyland looks at it.
“I found out a long time ago not to try to figure this thing out, because it just doesn’t work,” Leyland said. “Normally, you go into a game like today and you figure with the cold weather, maybe the pitchers have the advantage. You have two outstanding pitchers going. But I learned a long time ago, maybe an infielder gets a wet ball and throws one away, an outfielder slips with a couple runners on because of the wet grass or something. So I’ve never tried to figure it. It is what it is.”
It’s a damp, windy cold at Yankee Stadium, but the rain has lightened up, and it looks like they’re getting ready to pull the tarp. As of now, looks like they’re going to play ball, possibly on time. No announcements have been made here in the press box, so we’ll see.