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Coke's slider remains a work in progress

Coke's slider remains a work in progress play video for Coke's slider remains a work in progress

DETROIT -- Phil Coke flubbed up the finish on an 0-2 slider Tuesday night and turned what once had promise for a very good ninth inning into a troublesome one. He did not mess up the delivery when talking about it afterward.

"It was supposed to be away from him and I didn't get my fingers on top of the ball on the release," Coke said of his offering to Adam Dunn that became a two-run homer. "It started to get that movement that I wanted and then it came back to him at the last minute, just because I didn't get on top of the ball. If I get on top of the ball, he either fouls it off or douses it into left. I don't know. Who's to say? It didn't do what I'm supposed to do.

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"It was like I threw an incidental two-seamer."

Wait, that's supposed to be an accidental two-seamer, right?

"No," Coke answered, "it was an incident, because he hit that a long way. Somebody almost died. That was an incident in the outfield seats. Seriously. I'm being totally honest, because he tattooed that ball. He really did. He's probably been itching to do that to me for a long time. Hey, he finally got me. Pitch didn't do what I wanted it to, and that's on me. But he's still a phenomenal hitter and he did exactly what he's supposed to do."

Dunn hadn't been itching to hit him, but the reaction certainly made him laugh.

"I think it's awesome," Dunn said Wednesday. "That's very witty. I don't know Phil Coke very much. I can tell you right now I like him, because that's a good one. That's one of the better ones I've heard."

As for the pitch, it's a work in progress. While Coke thought he had promise in the slider he developed late in Spring Training after talking with Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain, he has tinkered with it some more following his struggles. He has been working on it with pitching coach Jeff Jones with mixed results.

"At times, it looks real good," manager Brad Ausmus said. "His first couple batters, he threw it a number of times and it looked really good. It's tough with a new pitch. Every once in a while, you lose the handle on it, and unfortunately against Dunn, he did."

Asked how he'll handle Coke, Ausmus took a cautious approach.

"There's got to be spots for him to pitch," Ausmus said. "I think ideally, you want to pitch him where he can be successful, and I think against a lefty is probably your best option. There are stretches where if the situation doesn't arise for him to pitch in the optimal situation, then you just have to get him in there. You can't not use him."

Tuesday's ninth inning was intended to be that situation, with an 8-3 lead and the bottom of the order coming up. Coke struck out the first two hitters before right-handed hitter Marcus Semien's double started the two-out rally.

Dunn, for one, thinks highly of Coke, not just as a quote.

"It's one of those deals where he really does have good stuff," Dunn said. "I think that a lot of times in this game, people probably overthink or put way too much pressure into things and it causes them to struggle. When you are going good, you just rear back and throw it or you swing hard and you hit it.

"Hopefully, he'll end up getting back on track. Hopefully, it's not against us."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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