Phil Coke is enjoying a continuous run of success since returning from the disabled list with what he describes as a tear to his triceps tendon in his throwing arm.
Rest and rehabilitation seem to have done the trick as he's compiled a strong 6-1 record. Even more impressive than that is his 2.40 ERA, which would rank him fourth in the Florida State League had it not been for the long layoff.
The brightest spot in the season came in his start against the St. Lucie Mets last week when went the distance with the complete game shutout, scattering eight hits and striking out five. Coke gives credit to a game plan he's been trying to implement more this season.
"I'm just trying to go out and give guys something to hit," he said. "Ninety-percent of the time the [batters] are going to get themselves out. That's what happened last time."
"They came out swinging the bat and trying to get on the board quick. I was working my sinker, threw a couple of offspeed pitches, worked in and out, and it worked in my favor."
The approach is something that Tampa pitching coach Greg Pavlik has been waiting to see from the young left-hander.
"That's what we try to stress to him," he said. "Don't look for strikeouts, get the ball on the ground early in the count, use less pitches and let the guys behind you play."
Coach Pavlik and the rest of the Tampa Yankees' staff may be happy just to have their pitcher give them any innings this season. They had a little luck on their side to not have the elbow injury be more serious than it was. The time away from the field was frustrating for Coke.
"Of course it's frustrating," he said. "All you can do is just role with the punches."
For all pitchers, arms troubles are almost a daily concern. It's something they have to expect, according to Pavlik.
"Anybody that's ever pitched is going to have arm problems," he said. "If you don't, it's a rarity. A lot of times [injuries are] better to come early in the season so you have a chance to recover and then pitch and then know going into the offseason that you're alright."
With Coke's return, the development stages and process are now back in full swing. Among some of the areas the staff is working on is his psyche while on the mound.
Occasionally, over-thinking has been a hurdle that he has struggled with but it's something he's improving on. The mental aspect of the game could be considered tougher than the physical.
"[Over-thinking] can absolutely occur without warning," he said. "Through the years when you're playing, that's one of the aspects you got to figure out when you're out there, especially in the middle morning."
With a variety of pitches, the breaking ball is turning into a more reliable pitch for Coke than in years past. Working on it for a while now, the results are starting to show. With help from Nardi Contreras and Pavlik, it is turning into one of his go-to pitches.
"We changed my grip and I feel pretty confident with it," he said. "It's night and day from last year. I'm throwing strikes with it and it's effective."
The breaking ball can be an essential pitch against left-handers.
"He can pitch real well inside to right-handers with a split and straight change, so he has to have something equal to left-handers for his advantage," Pavlik said.
Coke Rebounding Nicely From Injury
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