BRONX, N.Y. — “B plus.” It’s a phrase that I’ve heard from Phil Coke ever since doing this report card on the Thunder midway through the 2008 season.
The jokes are good natured, as that’s the kind of guy Coke is. But when I asked the now-Detroit Tigers reliever how he’d progressed since he last pitched in Trenton, he couldn’t resist one more opportunity at a jab.
“I think I’m above a B plus,” Coke said with a smile. “Just saying.”
Perhaps one of the biggest personalities ever to set foot in the Trenton Thunder clubhouse, Coke did eventually talk about his development since his stay at Waterfront Park in 2008.
“The ability to repeat my delivery has been very key for me,” he said.
“When I was here in ’09, I wasn’t able to go about it the way I was hoping to. There was kind of a touchy, feel around thing to see what’s cool and what’s not cool thing. I’ve been able to figure myself out and do my own routine to do what I need to do to be prepared every day.”
Coke spent seven seasons in the Yankees organization — including being a member of the 2009 World Series team — before being dealt to Detroit as part of the three-team deal that shipped Ian Kennedy to Arizona and netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson.
Speaking after the Tigers Game 1 loss in the ALDS, Coke said things aren’t quite the same now that he’s in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.
“Of course it’s a little different on the other end of the spectrum,” he said. “But at the same time, we’re all out there trying to do a job, so that’s all I’m really focused on doing. If my number’s called, it doesn’t matter what color the uniform is or who you’re playing. You’ve got to go out there and do your job.”
The Tigers as a whole need to do their collective jobs and do them well if they hope to dig out of their 1-0 series deficit. Coke, who warmed up yesterday but did not pitch, says that Friday night’s rainout didn’t affect his team negatively and that he believes his team can turn things around for the rest of the series.
“We don’t quit. We don’t roll over for anybody,” he said.
“We need to come out ready to go, that’s pretty much all you can do. Put this behind you and go out there (today). That’s the beautiful thing about baseball, there’s always another day.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com