"For me to be able to go and follow along with what Pudge is throwing down and having no problem throwing it, it's huge," Coke said. "Anything he puts down, it's Pudge Rodriguez telling me what to throw, I'm going to throw it."
The 26-year-old Coke put himself back on the prospect radar by appearing in 37 games (21 starts) combined this season at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he was 11-6 with a 2.79 ERA. He struck out 22 batters in 17 1/3 innings at Triple-A in two stints while being moved to the bullpen, and he said consistency has been a major reason for his quick rise.
"My first month of the season this year, I had really bad, bad luck," Coke said. "I'm really hard on myself anyway, so when I was going through that, I was like, 'I've got to change something.' It ended up that I needed to take some pressure off myself, because I was putting so much on my shoulders instead of sitting back and playing catch."
That took him to a sunny Monday afternoon in Detroit, where Coke arrived about an hour before first pitch and got the shock of his life by coming into the game. Coke got the outs asked of him, and he also did a nice job holding back his giddiness at working with a player who he looked up to as a young baseball fan growing up in northern California.
"I was like, 'That's Pudge!'" Coke said. "That's Pudge Rodriguez. I grew up looking at his gloves in the Baseball Express [catalog] as a kid. You want me to play catch with that guy? It's a dream come true, really."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he is pleased with the way Coke has thrown the ball, and he did not hesitate to use him against the Rays' lineup, one stocked with lefties who have never seen him. In short, Girardi is more than content to have a Coke and smile.
"We've liked him all along," Girardi said. "We heard about him when he was starting in Double-A and how well he was doing when he went up to Triple-A and was throwing well out of the bullpen. So far, so good."
NYY: RHP Darrell Rasner (5-9, 5.08 ERA)
Rasner held the Blue Jays to two runs through six innings and was economical with just 67 throws Saturday. But when he was sent back out for the seventh, Rasner allowed two hits and a walk. He was tagged for five runs total (four earned) to pick up the no-decision. It marked just the third time in his past 10 starts that Rasner pitched at least six innings. He gave up six hits, striking out one and recording one walk. Rasner has not faced Tampa Bay this season.
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (10-6, 3.13 ERA)
Kazmir notched his 10th win of the season against Baltimore on Friday night, tossing 5 1/3 innings of shutout baseball. He scattered three hits and three walks while striking out six. The 24-year-old left-hander has struggled with his mechanics lately, and he has worked all season with little luck to gain command of his slider, which has historically been his best pitch. Although he fared better on Friday night, Kazmir is still focusing on finding a way to pitch deeper into games. He has not gone longer than six innings since tossing seven shutout frames against Oakland on July 21. He will be making his 23rd start of the season on Thursday, his third against New York.
The Yankees are 9-5 against the Rays this season, the only American League East club with a winning record against the Rays. New York has won 11 of its last 17 overall ... The Yankees have won a season high six straight on the road and have won the first three games of a road trip for the first time this season. ... Jason Giambi has at least one RBI in eight straight games, the longest streak for a Yankee since Derek Jeter had nine in 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Bobby Abreu is batting .381 (65-for-181) since July 13.
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Official game notes
WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)
Friday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 13-11, 4.52) at Mariners (Brandon Morrow, 1-2, 1.47), 10:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: Yankees (Sidney Ponson, 7-5, 5.13) at Mariners (Ryan Rowland-Smith, 4-2, 3.56), 10:10 p.m. ET
Sunday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 17-7, 3.39) at Mariners (Carlos Silva, 4-14, 6.53), 4:10 p.m. ET