Chicago Cubs: Signing Phil Coke paying off early


My first post that I wrote here was a list of free agent who the Chicago Cubs should have looked at. The very last name I listed was Phil Coke.

The reason was because of the lack of depth in the bullpen and how he would be a good option against left-handed hitters. Well, I guess Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer must have read Cubbies Crib that day and took my expert advice (okay don’t laugh too hard).

Three days after that piece was written, the Cubs signed Coke to a minor league deal. The deal was set for one year at $2.25 million if he made the major league club – also up to $900 thousand could be earned with certain incentives.

Really at the time I thought it was a good move – low risk with a good chance for a decent return.

Coke pitched relatively well with the Detroit Tigers in 2014 – posting a stat line of 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 62 appearances. He also was a veteran pitcher with postseason experience who could teach some of the younger arms the Cubs have a few things to help the maturing process of being a big league pitcher.

It wasn’t much of a surprise he made the team to me – with the lack of left-handed relief options on the club, plus Coke pitched well in his spring outings. He also looked like he was in really good shape physically and that he slimmed up some.

What I wasn’t expecting was how quickly he’d pay off for the Cubs.

Granted the season is almost two weeks old but thus far Coke has been worth every penny. In his five games, Coke has pitched the Cubs out of a couple of rough situations.

He had the one appearance against a very good Rockies team where he was tagged for two hits and his only earned run of the year.

Coke will credit his early success from a pitching instructor he worked with over the winter. Dominick Johnson who was a former pitcher himself with the Giants, Red Sox, and Angels from 1987-1995 – showed Coke that his delivery needed to be fixed.

Coke was throwing across his body towards his delivery to the catcher and Johnson told him that squaring up towards the catcher would bring him better results.

As soon as he made that adjustment – he was able to command the ball to both sides of the plate. He told Cubs’ insider, Carrie Muskat – “That was enough for me to keep on truckin’ with what we were doing,” Coke said. “That was enough, and it was within five minutes.”

He’s making a very good early impression on the Cubs with his toughness and his performances and this was really a heads-up signing by the Cubs’ management to notice this guy had exactly what this young team needed. He’s a veteran with a good strikeout reputation and with a tough mentality that is also battled tested.

Kudos to the front office for the signing – it was one that went under the radar but is paying off well already.

Next: Is now the right time to extend Jake Arrieta?