The rise of David PhelpsYoungster earned points in St. Pete, but what's next?
Ask anyone on the Yankees and they will quickly tell you how happy they were with David Phelps’ spot start Wednesday afternoon against the Rays.
Anyone except Phelps himself. The rookie right-hander allowed just one run and finished with a career-high eight strikeouts. He also threw 81 pitches in 4 1/3 innings – his cap was 85 – and failed to qualify for a potential win.
“I’m obviously frustrated with myself,” Phelps said. “I mean, 85 pitches, I want to obviously get through the fifth and maybe more. It should have happened today.”
Considering this was Phelps’ first Major League start in two months – and thanks to Andy Pettitte’s broken fibula he was recalled sooner than expected from Class-A Tampa, where he was working to get stretched out to a starter’s workload level – he was wholly impressive. His teammates noticed. So did his manager. And you can bet people above them noticed too.
“He’s really stepped up for us and deserves a lot of credit for today,” said Mark Teixeira. “He almost matched [Rays starter David] Price pitch-for-pitch the way he was throwing. When they have a guy like that on the mound, it’s really important for us to keep the game close.”
Price pitched seven brilliant innings, no-hitting the Yankees through four, but Phelps stood toe-to-toe with the Rays’ ace southpaw. You can’t blame Phelps for wanting a lot more. Although his ERA in three starts is 2.08, he’s never pitched beyond the fifth, averaging 85 pitches.
Phelps was optioned to Double-A Trenton on Thursday to make room for the newly acquired Darnell McDonald, but an impression has been made.
“I thought he threw the ball pretty well," said Joe Girardi. "He really did. They made him work, and this is a team that makes you work, but I thought he did a nice job for us.”
The Yankees need a spot on their 25-man roster, and Phelps is unavailable until after the All-Star break anyway. So that he gets work in the interim, the right-hander will start Monday against Portland.
Girardi will have a glut of outfielders available against the Red Sox, and McDonald is expected to see playing time against Boston’s lefty starters in what amounts as a virtual audition.
More room will have to be made once CC Sabathia comes off the disabled list (D.J. Mitchell?). Before that, the Yankees could shed one outfielder, either McDonald or Dewayne Wise, and bring back Phelps. The second question will be whether the Yankees place Freddy Garcia back in the bullpen and see what they have out of Phelps as a full-time starter until Pettitte returns, or if Phelps is put in a long relief role, which is what led to him being sent to the Minors to be stretched out in the first place.
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