Red Sox pitcher Aaron Cook, currently in Triple-A Pawtucket after signing a minor league deal this winter, said that he is focused on pitching as well as he can rather than spending too much time thinking about whether or not he will exercise an opt-out clause in his contract if he is not called up by May 1. That said Cook -- who is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in four starts -- said in an interview on the Mut & Merloni show that he feels that he is ready to contribute to a big league club.
"I just feel like I'm healthy. I feel like I've done what I've needed to do. Hopefully I will get a phone call [informing him of a promotion to the big leagues] by May 1st," he said. "[The opt-out date is] always in the back of your mind, but you can't control it till it comes. As of now, I'm still down here. I'm going to do what I can to try to win my next start, and when May 1 comes, me and my agent will have a conversation about what's going on if I haven't gotten a phone call yet."
Cook said that, for the first time in years, he feels like he is fully healthy at the start of a season. He was encouraged by his most recent start -- a seven-inning complete game in which he allowed just one run on Monday for the PawSox -- in which his velocity ticked up to 92 mph and by the fact that he is getting opponents to pound his sinker into the ground.
"The results are kind of speaking for themselves right now," said Cook. "I hit 92 a couple times last night. That's really encouraging to me not for the fact that I can throw hard but that I can sustain throughout the game, throw the ball where I want. ... I don't know where the top [velocity] would be for this year, but as long as I'm getting groundball outs and going deep into game, that's what I'm going off of, not how hard I'm throwing or how soft I'm throwing, but whether or not guys are still hitting the ball into the ground. When they start lifting the ball and hitting it off the wall, then we'll have something we'll have to go back and look a little bit closer."
Asked if he would extend the opt-out date beyond the May 1 opt-out (as Andrew Miller and Kevin Millwood did while in Pawtucket last year), Cook did not rule out the possibility, noting that he would still have a June 1 opt-out and he would receive a bonus for not exercising the May 1 opt-out.
"If I stick around a little longer, I have a June 1 [opt-out] and get a little extra bonus. There's another buyout bonus-slash-day in there," said Cook. "I don't know how much discussion there would be [of extending the May 1 opt-out]."
Even though he remains in the minors during a month in which he has looked like a pitcher who can contribute at the big league level, the 33-year-old said that he regretted nothing about his decision to sign with the Sox this offseason (in which he turned down other clubs).
"It was the opportunity that they were saying was out there. They needed to fill a couple starter roles. They didn't know what they were going to do with a few guys. I have a long history with the pitching coach, and it's such a great city to play in. Who would want to turn down the opportunity to play in Boston?" said Cook. "For me, it was the three things combined that led to my decision to sign here. It's been great. The organization has been awesome, coaching staff, major league, minor league, everybody has been great. I wouldn't change my decision for any other one right now."
Cook remains optimistic that things will work out with the Sox, thogh for that to happen, an opportunity would have to emerge. If the Sox keep their current five starters in the rotation (Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard), Cook was asked if he would be open to working out of the bullpen in Boston.
"I do definitely view myself as a starter, but I have pitched out of the bullpen in the past. I probably have 40 or 50 appearances coming out of the bullpen," he said. "It's definitely something that is fun and interesting, but teams have expressed to me that they view me more as a starter. But for me, either way. If I get the ball and get to go out and pitch, I'll do whatever."
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