By Andrew Hendriks
A few short hours after Aaron Loup served up the winning run in Toronto’s 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, the Blue Jays inked fellow left handed reliever Phil Coke to a minor league deal.
Coke, 32, joins the major leagues only Canadian organization after spotty numbers led to his release from the Chicago Cubs late last week.
In 16 appearances under manager Joe Maddon in 2015, the long time Detroit Tigers hurler pitched to the tune of an earned run average that checked in north of six (6.30) and, during his brief stint in the Windy City, the veteran southpaw was unable to live up to the expectations placed upon him after signing a one year, $2.25 Million US deal during the off-season. The Cubs will pay him that amount with the Blue Jays picking up the tab on the pro-rated minimum salary ... if and when he is promoted.
Although his short performance with the Cubs left much to be desired for those looking to see the club capture its first World Series title since 1908, Coke’s peripherals suggested that, if afforded additional opportunities, a return to form may have been in the cards for the aging reliever.
A look beyond the gaudy ERA mark indicates that (during a sample sized 10 innings of work this season) the 6’1 product of Sonora, Calif. has walked only three batters, posted a solid K/9 percentage of 8.10 and managed to record 63.6 percent of his outs via ground balls.
If Coke continues to stay the course, numbers like the ones shown in Chicago could certainly play in the Blue Jays bullpen ... a bullpen that’s benefited greatly from an improved infield defence up the middle and a slower playing surface installed within Rogers Center earlier this year.
Is Coke here to stake a claim to Loup’s job as the lefty neutralizer in Toronto’s pen?
But with B.C. native Jeff Francis having been recently optioned back to triple-A, and Brett Cecil, who has retained his job as the club’s closer, Toronto could certainly benefit from the addition of another situational lefty in the pen.
For now, Coke will report to Buffalo where he will look to improve his game under the watchful eye of former Expos reliever and current Bisons pitching coach, Randy St. Claire.
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