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New Cubs pitcher Phil Coke to compete for lefty specialist role

Cubs hope they have classic Coke in newly signed lefty

SHARE Cubs hope they have classic Coke in newly signed lefty
SHARE Cubs hope they have classic Coke in newly signed lefty

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs have signed veteran reliever Phil Coke to a minor-league deal, pending a physical, and the left-hander is expected in camp Friday to start competing for a lefty bullpen role.

Coke, 32, spent the past five seasons with the Detroit Tigers, going 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 62 appearances last year, with one save and 24 games finished.

He makes $2.25 million if he plays in the big-leagues with the club, plus incentives.

Left-handers have hit .243 against him in his career, with a .648 OPS (compared to righties’ .303 and .818).

“It’s not a big secret that we’re seeking a left-handed kind of specialist,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s nice to have that lefty that’s also able to get out the righty. I’ve seen Phil Coke a lot in the past, and he was able to get out righties, also. Had a good breaking ball, too.”

In his first full season in the majors, with the Yankees during their 2009 championship year, Coke held right-handers to a .227 average (lefties .197) pitching in the same division with Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays.

He has a 4.26 ERA in 26 career postseason games, pitching in World Series for the Yankees in 2009 and Tigers in 2012 – when he became a postseason closer, replacing struggling Jose Valverde.

He pitched in 10 games that postseason, earning two saves and allowing one run in 10 2/3 innings (0.84). The lone run he allowed came on a game-winning hit by San Francisco’s Marco Scutaro with two out in the 10th during a two-inning appearance in the final game of the World Series.

Coke joins a lefty reliever battle that also includes Joe Ortiz, Francisley Bueno and — possibly if he falls from the rotation mix — Tsuyosi Wada.

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