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Coke's rough spring trend continues

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Phil Coke has never been known for fast starts to Spring Training. His adrenaline usually doesn't lend itself to early spring games. That said, he might well be creating a tougher situation for himself this spring with his early struggles.

Five days after giving up three runs on six hits to the Cardinals in an inning of work, Coke faced a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth inning against the Mets. He escaped allowing only a lone run, after Ezequiel Carrera made a diving catch in the left-field gap to rob Eric Campbell of what would've been an RBI extra-base hit.

Coke gave up two ground-ball singles, the second on a slow roller that stayed fair along the third-base line for an infield single to load the bases. In between the hits was a walk to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the lone left-handed hitter he faced.

Coke mitigated the damage by inducing a double-play ground ball from Andrew Brown, which plated Juan Lagares but moved Nieuwenhuis to third with two outs ahead of Carrera's heroics.

"He got into some trouble. He was able to get out of it. He got the double-play ball, which helped," manager Brad Ausmus said.

Coke's fastball ranged from 89-91 mph on the Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun. That isn't unusual for him in Spring Training games, though one could argue this spring is different for him following his off-and-on struggles last season. The bigger emphasis at this point might be command, particularly against lefties, and trying to induce swings and misses.

"Last year, he started out in Spring Training throwing 82-84 [mph]," Ausmus said. "I'm not putting that much stock in the radar gun, right now. It's still early, especially for relievers."

Coke's next outing is scheduled for Tuesday against the Blue Jays in Lakeland.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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