Phil Coke served as a left-handed specialist for the Yankees over the past two seasons, working strictly out of the bullpen while logging just 74.2 innings in 83 appearances. He pitched well, with a 3.74 ERA, 63/22 K/BB ratio, and .199 opponents’ average, but that success came while being matched up against left-handed hitters 60 percent of the time.
Coke likely would have been used similarly in 2010 had he stayed in New York, but after being traded to Detroit in the three-team Curtis Granderson deal there’s talk of the Tigers giving the 27-year-old southpaw a chance in their rotation. Here’s what general manager Dave Dombrowski had to say about the possibility:
There’s a chance, by all means. Our people liked him in the minors as a starter, and he had good numbers. Those will be some discussions that we have. I’m not making any declaration, because we haven’t made any decision. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had the opportunity to be one of our starters.
Coke was a starter for most of his minor-league career, but as Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes can attest to it’s often difficult for young pitchers to crack and stick in the Yankees’ rotation. Coke had already been shifted to the bullpen by the time he reached Triple-A, but he went 9-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 115/39 K/BB ratio in 118.1 innings as a starter at Double-A. Giving him an opportunity to be a solid mid-rotation starter before making him a good left-handed specialist certainly makes sense.