Coke promoted to provide depth in bullpen

Coke promoted to provide depth in bullpen

NEW YORK -- Phil Coke was playing independent league ball two weeks ago, when he returned from the one and only game he pitched for the Lancaster Barnstormers to a voicemail from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

Was the left-hander available? Yes, he was. Following a short stint at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Coke was back in the Bronx after six years with the team he began his Major League career with in 2008.

The Yankees signed Coke to a Major League contract on Friday, selecting him to their active roster prior to Friday night's series opener against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, the park Coke helped christen with a World Series title in its inaugural 2009 season.

"Feels like home, man," said Coke, who got a call from the club at about 11:30 a.m. to give him the news. "I grew up in this organization. I was able to see the old ballpark before they tore it down, and I was able to help break this one in correctly. And now I'm back to finish some unfinished business."

Coke, an eight-year veteran, was added to help fill the long-man role vacated by Ivan Nova, who was bumped into the starting rotation with CC Sabathia being placed on the disabled list Friday. Coke can also serve as a lefty specialist if need be.

"He's a guy that can be just for left-handers or can give you distance," manager Joe Girardi said. "He kind of gives you the best of both worlds when you lose Nova to the rotation."

The 33-year-old Coke, though he hasn't pitched for the Yankees since 2009 -- he was traded to the Tigers that offseason, in the deal that brought Curtis Granderson to New York -- is one of only five current Yankees to have played for that World Series championship team. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and Sabathia are the others.

The group could be joined by a sixth member, Nick Swisher, who is currently at Triple-A, where he was hitting .299 with three home runs in 17 games entering play Friday. Swisher's name has circulated as a possible callup with Rodriguez on the DL with a strained hamstring.

Coke made it up first, though, after only two games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, including one start, in which he allowed just three hits and one unearned run with eight strikeouts in seven innings. He last pitched in the Majors for the Cubs and Blue Jays in 2015, posting a 5.68 ERA in 18 appearances.

Prior to the 2016 season, Coke signed a Minor League deal with the Braves, but he was released shortly afterwards and he subsequently latched on with the Independent Atlantic League Barnstormers. Then came Cashman's call.

"Obviously, the end goal when it comes down to it is being here," Coke said.

David Adler is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.