Phil Coke: No excuses
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.