OAKLAND –- Given the unsettled state of the A’s bullpen, A’s manager Bob Melvin sees newly signed left-hander Phil Coke as someone who can perhaps help the big league club this season.
Coke signed a minor league contract with Oakland and debuted with Single-A Stockton on Saturday night, throwing a scoreless inning against Inland Empire.
The A’s have seen the 32-year-old Coke plenty over the years. Coke pitched two seasons with the New York Yankees after breaking into the majors in 2008. He won a World Series ring with New York in 2009, then spent five seasons with the Detroit Tigers. In 2012, he made three appearances against the A’s in the AL Division Series.
Coke is 22-27 with a 4.20 career ERA, with 386 of his 401 appearances coming in relief.
“We’re always looking to increase our depth,” Melvin said before Sunday’s game against Kansas City. “With the bullpen, you look at where we started the season and where we are right now. This is a guy that’s had some success in the big leagues. He’s gotten righties and lefties out. He’s been on some playoff teams, and always appears to be that guy that competes really hard out there.”
Coke has a July 10 opt-out clause in his contract, so it appears the A’s are looking to evaluate him quickly in order to see if he’s a fit. Coke is from Sonora and still lives there, part of the reason he’s starting out with Stockton.
“It gives us time to take a look at him,” Melvin said. “We got him for a reason.”
It’s no secret the A’s have been searching for a consistent bullpen mix all season. Their 4.28 bullpen ERA is second highest in the majors, and their 16 bullpen losses are tied for second most in the majors. On Saturday, Melvin talked of his hopes that righties Ryan Cook and Dan Otero can show consistency for Triple-A Nashville and work their way back to the majors this season.
Center fielder Billy Burns is back in the lineup after missing the past two games with a hip flexor injury. Melvin stopped short of saying Burns is full strength.
“He’s good enough to play. Everybody goes through periods where they have some bumps and bruises. Two days off should make him significantly better.”
However, the starting left side of the infield is getting the day off with Marcus Semien and Brett Lawrie. Eric Sogard is handling shortstop with Max Muncy at third. Lawrie has required occasional rest for back trouble. Melvin also cited the .341 average that Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie has allowed to lefties as a good time to sub in left-handed hitters (Sogard and Muncy) for Semien and Lawrie.
Melvin said he hasn’t made a pitch to Royals manager Ned Yost this weekend regarding the A’s possible All-Stars. Yost is the AL skipper for the July 14 game. Melvin typically puts in a phone call to the AL manager as the game gets closer.
In case you’re curious, nothing new to report on the injury progress of closer Sean Doolittle or left fielder Coco Crisp. Crisp (cervical strain in neck) has yet to begin baseball activity and Doolittle is doing plyometric work to strengthen his left shoulder. He has yet to begin throwing.
Updates from down on the farm:
Lefty Sean Nolin got the win for Nashville on Saturday, working 5 2/3 innings and allowing one run on eight hits. He’s 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 10 games (8 starts) for the Sounds.
Raul Alcantara is a name that might have slipped your mind, but the highly touted A’s prospect is recovered from Tommy John surgery and currently pitching in Stockton’s rotation. Alcantara, 22, entered 2014 as the A’s No. 1 pitching prospect before he was injured. He has a 5.25 ERA over his first four starts with the Ports.