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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.