Levine: Phil Coke Brings Veteran Presence To Cubs Bullpen
By Bruce Levine-
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) -- At the tender age of 32, most professionals are still getting their feet wet in whatever walk of business life they have chosen. In baseball, you're a grizzled veteran if you're 32 and have spent seven years in the bullpen.
That's the case for set-up man Phil Coke, the left-handed specialist who signed an incentive-laced contract with the Cubs last week. Coke becomes the only projected southpaw reliever who manager Joe Maddon can depend on as the April 5 opener approaches. Though Coke signed a minor league deal, it's a mere formality and simply roster spot manipulation at this point in adding the him to the 25-man roster.
Last season with the Tigers, Coke posted a 3.88 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 62 appearances. He spent the past five years in Detroit after spending his first two with the New York Yankees.
Coke brings an aggressive style and an outgoing personality to the ballpark with him each day.
"You become accustomed to going out there on a daily basis and having a soldier of fortune approach," Coke said. "It is like getting used to running -- the more you run, the better you are. At some point you add biking, then swimming. Baseball is no different. You just keep adding pitches and experiences. I got thrown into the fire right away with the Yankees. It got to be a natural thing, being prepared to pitch every day."
Coke has fit right in with his new teammates, showing a penchant for telling jokes and keeping everything lose. He does admit that results still impact him, maybe more than they should.
"To be honest, yes I still get hung up on the results a little bit," Coke said.
"I try to focus on the positive things, even in a bad outing, to concentrate on moving past the negative."
Though only in camp a week, Coke believes his veteran experience can be a boon to one youngest bullpens in baseball.
"The guys in bullpens really do spend more time with each other," Coke said. "When there is a true bullpen to house the guys, we are isolated and it does add a unique aspect to those relationships."
"Like I said earlier, there is little adjustment time for bullpen guys. I was thrown into big-game situations from the beginning in both New York and Detroit. The fact I had more success than failures in those moments have made me the guy I am in baseball. I really hope I can help some of the guys out. This is something that you learn on the job. There is not a lot of room for a learning curve. It is like being an offensive lineman -- no glory, you just go out and do it, good or bad. You have to put the bad behind you."
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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