When Tom mentioned Phil Coke as an option for the long relief spot in Joe Girardi’s bullpen, I disparaged the idea. Jerking a young pitcher from role to role can often stunt their development and hinder their performance in both roles, as Ross Ohlendorf showed us last season. However, the Yankees seem ready to use Coke much as they did Ohlendorf:
I stopped Joe Girardi in the clubhouse today as I wanted to get some clarification on how they plan to use Phil Coke.
The verdict is … reliever.
“He’s a guy we see being able to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. That’s how we’re going to try and develop him,” Girardi said. “Right now, he’s not a starter.”
If Coke gets stretched out enough, he would fit into that long reliever role. But being left-handed, he also could be used situationally.
“I feel like I could go four innings if they want or pitch to one batter,” Coke said yesterday. “I started a lot in the minors but I liked pitching in relief last year. Whatever they want.”
As I mentioned above, I do not love this idea. I would prefer that the Yankees use Phil as a one inning reliever, while utilizing him situationally against lefties as well. However, being that the Yankees are planning to use him in a mixed role, it is interesting to note the way in which this may affect the rest of the bullpen.
Assuming that the Yankees go with seven relievers, and Rivera, Bruney, and Marte are guaranteed spots, they are left with four slots to determine during camp. Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras probably have a leg up based upon last season, although Edwar’s shoulder issues may eliminate his advantage. Originally, I assumed that Giese would be the long man, and Coke would likely beat out the others for the final spot. However, if Coke can win the long reliever slot, that leaves a roster space open for one of the younger relievers, such as Albaladejo, Melancon, and Robertson, all of whom are players that I expect to contribute heavily by the time August rolls around. Essentially, the decision as to the long reliever could have an important ripple effect, and is something to keep an eye on during spring training.
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