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Coke anything but vanilla

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Calling him the “definition” of a left-handed reliever -- as in off-center a little -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon says newcomer Phil Coke will be in uniform Sunday when the team takes the practice field before playing the Texas Rangers in a Cactus League game.

Coke, 32, agreed to terms earlier this week on a minor-league deal, but Maddon says he’s definitely in the mix for a role in the Cubs bullpen. Coke has a career 4.16 ERA in seven big league seasons, but he’s appeared in 26 postseason games with the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. That’s the kind of experience the Cubs are looking for, and there's no one standing in his way of claiming a 25-man roster spot.

Coke says he’s ready to take on whatever challenges the Cubs put in front of him, be it against left-handed hitters or righties.

“I’m not a guy that’s ever felt really good about the title of lefty specialist,” Coke said Friday in the Cubs locker room. “It’s too fine of a pigeon hole. Very limiting.”

In fact, Coke is a little annoyed by the thought, saying he gets his “back up about that,” as in the way a cat shows his displeasure at times.

“I’m a baseball player, man, that’s part of my job,” Coke said.

Coke had other offers but chose the Cubs after visiting with Theo Epstein and touring the Cubs' spring facility on Wednesday.

“I know there’s been a lot of heartbreak (in Chicago), and besides all the acquisitions there’s a real desire to win here,” he said. “Feels like the right place to be.”

Coke said he wasn’t worried about finding a job this offseason as much as working out some mechanical issues which had “gotten away” from him. He thinks he’s done that.

“It was a great offseason for me,” Coke stated.

Like a lot of current Cubs, Coke’s personality will play in Chicago if he’s doing his job and the Cubs are winning. There’s nothing wrong with a little flavor out of the bullpen.

“As a left-handed relief pitcher, he definitely fits the definition,” Maddon said. “There’s no doubt.”