Coke: Lack of mental prep at root of bullpen issues


It’s no secret that the Yankees’ bullpen has been downright awful in the early going, and part of that was due to the state of flux caused by Chien-Ming Wang‘s suckiness. Phil Coke, speaking to Marc Carig of The Star Ledger, says that the lack of defined roles have hurt the bullpen’s ineffectiveness. Here’s some telling quotes:

“Even though [the bullpen atmosphere is] loose, you can see it in people’s eyes,” lefty Phil Coke said. “As soon as that phone rings, it goes dead silent.”

“We’re getting used in such a different fashion every time we step on the field,” said Coke, who admits that in several instances this season, he and his colleagues may have been caught mentally unprepared. “We’ve got to be ready to go from the first inning.”

“I feel my role is in the seventh inning, and I’ve got to come in in the second because we have no one else, then I’ve done nothing for my team except hurt my team right out of the chute because of my mental preparation,” Coke said. “As a bullpen guy, you’ve got to be willing to do what you’ve got to do.”

Everyone likes to have defined roles at their job, and Major League pitchers are no different. However there comes a point when that isn’t an excuse anymore, and you have to be prepared to do whatever the team needs. Coke’s admission that he and some of the other relievers have been caught mentally unprepared is part one of the problem, part two is correcting that. None of the current non-Mo relief corps have earned a defined role at this point, and right now everyone is … wait for it … pitching for their job! What a novel idea.

Stop taking it for granted, just do what you’re asked and be ready for anything.

Categories : Death by Bullpen


  1. Tony says:

    Even Rivera doesn’t do well when they jerk him around.

    Paging Joe…

    • steve (different one) says:

      so, what you are advocating is that Girardi should only use Mariano Rivera for 3 outs, with a 1-4 run lead, in the 9th inning?

      because that is, frankly, batshit insane.

  2. Drew says:

    I kind of wish Coke didn’t say this to the media. IMO, there is no defined roles down there except for Mo. Who the hell do these kids think they are? Earn your spot and you’ll stay there.

  3. With Bruney in the 8th it’d be that much easier to figure out who pitches the 7th.

    What’s the ETA on his return, any way?

    • 27 this year says:

      about two weeks or so.

      • cult of basebaal says:

        not clear.

        according to Cashman, Bruney was told not to throw today or tomorrow, seems very likely he won’t be ready to come off the DL when he is eligible.

  4. Slugger27 says:

    i think this is just an excuse… and a lame one at that

    your job is to get outs… it shouldnt matter what inning it is

  5. Moshe Mandel says:

    Yeah, this is a cop-out. Joe tried the defined roles, but everyone stunk and he mixed it up. Defined roles, considering the volatility of bullpens in general, is a recipe for disaster.

  6. Frank says:

    “Even though [the bullpen atmosphere is] loose, you can see it in people’s eyes,” lefty Phil Coke said. “As soon as that phone rings, it goes dead silent.”

    That’s the scariest quote IMO.

    The roles will become more consistent once everyone gets healthy and the starters (mostly CC and AJ) start pitching better. But the roles aren’t consistent also because no one can get an out.

    When it comes down to brass tax…. man the fuck up! Get in there and get some outs. No need to be wide eyed when the phone rings and no need to make excuses. Look at as an opportunity to set the pace. Not good quotes by Coke.

    • Linnea says:

      Not sure how else they should react–being called in has to be stressful for most of the bullpen besides Mo. They aren’t the best pitchers, because otherwise they’d be closers or starters, so their jobs are always a little bit tenuous.

      Also, not sure how much better you want CC to be. AJ could probably get a little better, but his last start would have looked spectacular if he’d had some run support.

  7. Joey H says:

    None of the current non-Mo relief corps have earned a defined role at this point” Yeah. Because of the lack of mental preparation apparently.

  8. Frank says:

    What’s a little scary is that there’s really no help on the way. If Melancon can’t settle things down by the time Bruney comes back, who do you go to? Not J.B. Cox… can’t be too excited about Claggett or Jackson. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tomko get at least a shot at this point. It’s not like he can do any worse than some other performances of late.

  9. V says:

    Why is everyone yelling at Coke for being honest??! He’s not making excuses – he’s the only one doing well!!

    • Slugger27 says:

      im not yelling at him for being honest… hes making an excuse (and a lame one) for the bullpens lack of production out there

      “defined roles” shouldnt have any significance of how u perform… your job is to be able to get ready and loose in a short amount of time, enter the game on said short notice, and get hitters out… u dont get 2 innings to mentally prepare for certain hitters, thats not how a bullpen works

      if u get 4 minutes to get loose and enter the game, so be it… just do your job

    • Drew says:

      He’s not exactly doing well. He’s given up 7 runs, 4 earned in 9 innings. That doesn’t even take into account what inherited runners he let score.
      He’s way out of line here, he threw his manager under the bus because the bullpen has sucked. While many of us disagree with Joe’s handling of the pen, Coke should shut up and do his job. If he’s got a problem, handle it in house.

      • Slugger27 says:

        besides… if anyone should be 2nd guessing girardis use of the pen, it shouldnt be a damn rookie

        nobody should publicly question their manager, but if it was going to happen… only mo (and to a much lesser extent marte) has the track record to say something like this

      • Moshe Mandel says:

        His WhIP is 1.14, which is great, and he has allowed earned runs in just 2 of 11 appearances, and any runs at all in 3. He has come in with 13 runners on and allowed just two to score. Looking at that, he has actually been excellent.

        • Slugger27 says:

          while ur correct, its still besides the point

          his stats arent relevant… u shouldnt question publicly question your manager when 1. u are wrong and 2. when u are a rookie… when its both, u look even worse

        • Drew says:

          I highly disagree with “excellent.” By the stats, he’s allowing an earned run in about every other inning. While a 3.7 ERA over the course of 20, 30, 50 appearances is good, allowing 7 runs plus 2 the inherited runners isn’t getting it done. When I said he’s not doing well, I didn’t mean he was sucking, it was a response to V, who was saying we shouldn’t be mad at Coke because he is the only one doing well.

          • Moshe Mandel says:

            Your standards for a non-closing reliever are very high. 11 out of 13 strand rate is excellent, as is a WHIP of 1.14. Those things suggest that while he had a few bad innings, he has done an admirable job thus far.

    • Linnea says:

      I thought it was a great quote and I love hearing the truth from these guys, even if it’s tough for people who think the Yankees should be perfect all the time to hear that the bullpen guys are nervous and self-conscious sometimes.

  10. LiveFromNY says:

    Your defined role is to get people out. That’s it.

  11. Arlok789 says:

    I know pitching isn’t easy but it shouldn’t be too complicated. Read scouting reports, have a plan, don’t tip pitches, execute.

    The bullpen isn’t executing. You have to throw strikes and you can’t leave balls over the middle of the plate. It doesn’t matter what your role is because the job is the same. Get Outs.

    Coke might have a point but that doesn’t change the fact that these guys are not executing pitches.

  12. Mike Pop says:

    Eh, just go get outs. This isn’t the reason while you’re giving up runs. As said above, it’s a cop-out.

    Hopefully they just turn it around. Enough is enough already, the pen is too talented for this. Unfortunately, with Marte/Bruney down, and Veras not pitching well at all. It’s like they are already 3 men down. Hopefully Melancon and Robertson perform well and then when Bruney gets back this pen can be effective and efficient again.

  13. Moshe Mandel says:

    Just as a note, I want to point out last years bullpen on Opening Day:

    Mariano Rivera
    Joba Chamberlain
    LaTroy Hawkins
    Kyle Farnsworth
    Brian Bruney
    Billy Traber
    Ross Ohlendorf
    Jonathan Albaladejo

    By August, for various reasons, Rivera was the only one left. We are talking about a pen that finished the year in the Top 5 in every major category, and it had a crazy amount of turnover. That is the nature of bullpens. If you have enough cogs, it will work itself out.

    • Frank says:

      But it doesn’t seem like there’s anyone in house that can right the ship other than Melancon. If he struggles that’s bad news. Cash will have to look outside the organization and will probably have to wait until after the all-star break to be able to get a decent arm a team is willing to unload.

      • Moshe Mandel says:

        I doubt it seemed that way last season either. Would you have predicted help to come from Veras, Edwar, Giese, and Aceves? They have plenty of pieces that have not really had a chance to show their true colors (Melancon, Robertson, Jackson, Claggett) and a few that have shown flashes (Coke, Albie). I think a bullpen with Coke, Marte, Melancon, and Bruney as the primary guys, and Albie and Robertson as the next level should be pretty solid.

        • Frank says:

          Agree with the Coke, Marte, Melancon, Bruney part. That’s a solid pen IF they all perform up to par. But Jackson and Claggett aren’t as highly regarded as Robertson, Melancon and such… their numbers aren’t as good either. At least that’s my understanding of it.

          But don’t you write for Pending Pinstripes? What do you think of Claggett & Jackson?

          • Moshe Mandel says:

            I write for The Yankee Universe, I wrote for The Bronx Block in the past. many of our writers wrote for PP in the past. That being said, I like Jackson- he has attacked the zone with regularity since moving to the bullpen. I want my relievers to throw strikes. In regard to Claggett, i really do not know enough about him.

            • Frank says:

              I knew I recognized you’re name. That’s good to here about Jackson b/c from what I remember his problem was his walk rate as a starter.

  14. Frank says:

    Could be the league has caught up to the Yanks’ bullpen. They certainly must have made an impression last season with all the strikeouts. Guys like Veras, Albie, and Coke were all relatively new or brand new last season. The scouting reports are out on these guys. I’ve noticed a lot of hitters jump right on top of them this season. It’s up to the Yanks to make some adjustments.

    • Jamal G. says:

      The Yankees’ bullpen K rate of 8.57 ranks third in MLB, and they’re K/BB ratio of 1.87 ranks 9th in all of baseball. It’s just that they’ve been worse than abhorrent in some spots (which perceives them to be worse than they actually are), and they are very prone to serving up the long ball (1.88 HR/9 is worst in MLB).

      The Yanks’ bullpen has not been “figured out”, they’ve just been inconsistent.

      • Frank says:

        Agreed they’ve been inconsistent. No doubt.

        And the strikeouts are there… no one seems to have lost their stuff minus Marte due to injury. But that’s precisely why I think they’ve been “figured out.” That, and what I mentioned earlier about hitters looking like they’ve jumped on them a bit more. A lot of hitters jumping on 1st pitch strikes.

        • Jamal G. says:

          That’s a contradicting statement, though. They couldn’t of been figured out if they are the third-best bullpen in MLB at striking guys out.

          • Frank says:

            Why not? Are strikeouts in direct correlation to runs allowed? There are plenty of strikeout pitchers

            What I’m trying to say is that while the “stuff” is still there, the league scouting reports have prepared opposing hitters as to what to expect in what counts… whereas that information may have been inconclusive due to small sample sizes or alltogether unavailable. This could account for the HRs allowed. Hitters are getting better guesses and putting better swings on the ball.

            Although, you may be right. The strikeouts could be an indication that the performance level is still there while the HRs could be attributed to nothing more than the consequence of long innings pitched after Wang’s starts.

            • Frank says:

              *disregard “there are plenty of strikeout pitchers”

              That was an incomplete thought and forgot to delete it.

  15. Mr. Rodriguez says:

    anyone else wish we took Juan Cruz for a 4th rounder?

  16. Mike Pop says:

    Are there more arms in the minors that can eventually help out the Yanks pen this year besides Aceves and Tomko? I mean, if the pen continues to struggle they would need to do something and NOT move Joba there.

    Also, I see Kontos was promoted. Now, does Cashman do the promoting and demoting of minor leaguers? He makes that decision, or no.

    • Frank says:

      He’s involved and ultimately makes the decision based on info/advise given to him. I wouldn’t expect Kontos up here this year. There’s been a lot of promoting due to Hughes coming up and Kennedy getting hurt.

      Aceves and Tomko don’t seem to be much else other than long men/spot starters. Although I would like to see Tomko get a chance. I believe he’s been closing for Scranton and hasn’t done bad at all.

      • Mike Pop says:

        Thank you, sir.

        I wasn’t thinking Kontos, just saw he got promoted so it made me wonder. Would be nice if hungry Humberto did well with the org so it would be another arm for right now. While I still have confidence that the pen will put it together, it can just be so frustrating. That states the obvious.

    • 27 this year says:

      there is also Mike Dunn, Zack Kreonke, Jackson, DeLaRosa maybe, Horne if healthy, and some others I think.

    • Drew says:

      3 words; Casey FU**ING Fossum.

  17. rsam says:

    we should get rid of veras just awful we have enough other relievers to get the job done.

  18. rsam says:

    red sox coming into town hope our relievers can effectively do their job

  19. Drew says:

    Last year our huge problem was not having a lefty, we were left with Traber. Considering we have a leg up on that this year, Marte, Coke and Edwar who is effective against lefties, I’d say we are almost ahead of schedule compared to last year.

    • Matt ACTY says:

      I like Edwar a lot but this myth that he’s effective against lefties needs to stop. For his career, he has an .822 OPSA vs. lefties and that number sits at .894 this year so…

      • Drew says:

        His career BAA for lefties is .260, not bad. The walks are what hurts his cause but with his high K rates he can usually get away with it.

        • OPSA is still more indicative than BAA.

          Just because David Eckstein hit .300 didn’t mean that he was a good player…

          • Drew says:

            Well I disagree about the Eckstein point, a lot of guys can’t slug and don’t put up a .400 obp. So obviously their OPS won’t be as high as a guy that hits homeruns.

          • Matt ACTY says:

            D-Eck has a .351 career OBP. I thought it was like .330 or something.

        • Matt ACTY says:

          The BAA could be .200 but as long as he’s letting up a .360+ OBP and a .450+ SLG it doesn’t matter. He walks a ton of lefties and they clearly mash it against him. He’s not a good pitcher vs. LHH.

      • Frank says:

        I’d personally like to see Edwar as the odd man out instead of Veras. I know Veras has been brutal of late but his stuff is lightyears ahead of Edwar’s and has tremendous upside… could be an 8th inning option if he gets his shit together.

        • Veras’s problems are harder to fix than Edwar’s. Veras’s mechanics are awful, which doesn’t help the problem of poor command. Edwar’s stuff is better because he just needs to use the FB as a set-up for the plus CHG. Statistically, Veras has been pretty bad from the ASB last year, his ERA and FIP didn’t match last year, his WHIP has always been to high, and he had too high of a strand rate last year; hence, he has a negative statistical correction to experience. Lastly, stats and my own eyes tell me that he is leaving the ball to high in the zone, leading to many more flyballs and homers. Now, Edwar’s mechanics aren’t great, either, but fewer stats point to a negative statistical correction when compared to Veras. However, he, too, has issues with leaving balls high in the zone.

          To tell you the truth, I care for neither of them. They could both be gone once D-Rob and Melancon prove they can pitch well in the majors.

          • Frank says:

            Veras’ delivery is a problem and I attribute that to his letdown post all-star break IMO. It’s tough to repeat that delivery for a full season. It was also his 1st full season in the bigs and I believe he went over his career high of innings pitched. I was hoping he’d bounce back fresh this year… but no dice. His career HR/9 is also pretty well below Edwar’s… obviously.

            Like you said I don’t care for either as well… but I’d rather have Veras around if and when he turns it around. We all know what he can do.

  20. rsam says:

    bring up igawa as a lefty reliever.

  21. Darth Stein says:

    I think that Coke is expressing his honest opinion on the subject. He would have been better off keeping his mouth shut but he didn’t. The question that this raises for me is where is the coaching staff in all of this? If pitchers feel they are unprepared to take the mound, right or wrong that has to at least partially fall on the coaching staff.

    • Frank says:

      Good point but I think it speaks more to the makeup of the players. Something you can’t really coach. That’s why I said the most disturbing quote was how everything gets dead quiet when the phone rings. That’s not the kind of attitude you want from your relievers and needs to be corrected.

    • another steve says:

      clearly mo needs to start peeing on his hands and get in some faces out there.

  22. “I feel my role is in the seventh inning”

    OMG!!!!1!! Whos gonna pith teh 6th!!!1!!!!11!!1!

  23. dre says:

    are you guys blind?
    yes they need to pitch better, but Girardi has to do a better job of managing that bullpen, he is horrible, he leaves people in too long, he lets them wait 5 days between getting to pitch,so obviously they are going to be rusty, he brings in the wrong pitchers for the situation..

    • Drew says:

      This isn’t about our opinions on how Joe has handled the pen. By the way, if our pen wasn’t pitching at an estimated 7 era clip, Joe wouldn’t look so bad. This is about an unproven rookie making excuses for his and his fellow pen mates at the expense of Joe. Coke was completely out of line in voicing this to the media.

    • steve (different one) says:

      he lets them wait 5 days between getting to pitch

      no, he really doesn’t.

      he almost NEVER does this.

      this little myth had legs before we found out Marte has been hurt. now it doesn’t.

      • dre says:

        when was the last time he pitched Robertson? oh right it wasn’t 5 days ago it was 7
        albie was ridding the bullpen pine for 4 days between the 25th (that was the game Giradi took him out for Rivera in the 8th FOR NO REASON) and the 29th
        and there were others he sat for 3 or 4 days.

        • johnny says:

          robertson pitched saturday. also, it should be noted that we’re carrying a lot of pitchers(at one point 9) in the pen, so it’s tricky to get everybody work. I don’t know about you, but I feel like if everybody in the pen is pitching every other day, things have gone terribly wrong.

  24. kimonizer says:

    Maybe everyone is jumping on Coke a little too much. The way I read it was that the bullpen wasn’t mentally prepared to come in at any moment and that was there fault. They had maybe gotten in their heads that they would be used at certain times and were incorrectly preparing for that scenario and when a different scenario came up they just weren’t ready. It doesn’t seem like he blames Girardi as much as he says that they should have been doing the mental side of their jobs better.

    • steve (different one) says:

      he saying the bullpen wasn’t mentally strong enough to cover for Wang in his last 2 starts.

      he should probably have kept his mouth shut about that, b/c it sounds like he’s making excuses.

      rookie mistake, i’m over it.

  25. Scott of 3 Kids Tickets says:

    I’m in more of a mindset of –

    1) why is a rookie talking sh*t about his managers style?

    b) if this is a problem, why isn’t a veteran talking about it to someone…not the press.

    If this was 10 years ago, he’d be on the next bus to AA ball….


  26. Joseph M says:

    Coke’s comments are the equivalent of a utility infielder complaining about having to play more than one position. A set up man has a defined role, a closer has a defined role, the rest of the pen is on call as needed. The key word in all this is relief.
    Relief, one that takes the place of another on duty, this is one of the word’s meanings. CC was pitching great yesterday, then all of a sudden not so great, just like AJ in Boston. When that happens everyone in the pen has to be prepared mentally to begin warm ups, if they’re not prepared mentally then they are not doing their job.

  27. MattG says:

    This is a despicable, retarded mindset. I want to blame Coke, but he’s not a veteran, so where did he learn this idea?

    It doesn’t look like AA has anything close to the defined roles Coke wants. I certainly hope they are teaching them properly down there.

    Oh, and for you Coke? The role is pitch when you’re told to, and give up as little as possible.

  28. pete c. says:

    Has anyone mentioned that the youngster shouldn’t be telling tales out of school. Maybe the team should get him a copy of Bull Durham, and he can learn how speak to the media.

  29. [...] a mess of things through the first 24 games. The young left-hander Phil Coke said recently that the lack of clarified roles has hurt the bullpen’s performance (’kudos’ to [...]

  30. [...] and demonstrative approaches of Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez. Or maybe he’s just more cerebral and concerned about his role than the vast majority of other [...]

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