The Phil Coke era in Detroit came to an unceremonious end today. Coke agreed to a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Coke will join the Cubs in their major league camp in Mesa, Arizona tomorrow.
Coke apparently turned down a major league offer to sign with the Cubs, one of the media darlings of the offseason after hiring new manager Joe Maddon and signing free agent left-handed pitcher Jon Lester. The Cubs went 73-89 last season, but have a farm system believed by many to be the best in baseball. The Cubs will be relying on their talented youngsters and new additions Lester, Miguel Montero, and Dexter Fowler to push for their first winning season since 2009.
Coke arrived in Detroit in December of 2009 as a part of the trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees. He got off to a solid start with a 3.76 ERA and 3.23 FIP in 2010, but faltered later on. The team unsuccessfully tried using him as a starting pitcher in 2011, and he eventually fell to the bottom of the bullpen pecking order in 2013 and 2014. In five seasons, Coke had a 4.25 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and 3.63 FIP with the Tigers.
While the numbers (and results) weren't always pretty, Coke was a key contributor for the Tigers, particularly during their run to the 2012 World Series. Coke pitched a scoreless inning in Game 1 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, then recorded two saves in the series after closer Jose Valverde faltered. Coke's celebratory glove slam after closing out the decisive Game 4 is one of the more iconic moments in recent Tigers history.
Still only 32 years old, Coke's 3.88 ERA in 2014 was his best figure since 2010. This included a 2.66 ERA and 2.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40 2/3 innings after June 1st, in spite of a .341 batting average on balls in play. Coke held left-handed hitters to a .257 batting average and .310 on-base percentage, his best splits since 2011.
In related (and potentially more important) news, Phil Coke's Brain is still a staff writer for Bless You Boys. He has changed his Twitter handle to @ComericaEric.