Phelps' 11 Ks help Thunder down Portland
Phelps (1-0), who also pitched well for the Yankees in a start last Wednesday against the Rays, was optioned back to the Minors following that game so that he could stay on starting schedule during the All-Star Break. With Triple-A Scranton also off in the midst of the International League’s All-Star break, Trenton was the destination…and the Thunder were glad to have him.
The right-hander had a somewhat-hairy first inning, allowing a double to Jeremy Hazelbaker and walking Reynaldo Rodriguez to put Sea Dogs on first and second with two outs. But he got out of trouble by striking out Matt Spring, and he was flawless the rest of the way – retiring the final 18 Sea Dogs he faced (including that fanning of Spring) and punctuating his performance by striking out Rodriguez looking for the second out of the seventh inning.
In all, Phelps threw 62 of his 94 pitches for strikes, and when he was lifted, the righty received a loud ovation from the 4,479 in attendance at Mercer County Waterfront Park.
Despite the challenges of his journey over the last month – going from the Majors to Single-A Tampa then back to the Majors and now to Double-A – he credited his strong performance on some advice from a high school pal that helped him get prepared.
“I got some good advice the last time I was optioned (to Class-A Tampa) from (Cardinals pitcher) Kyle McClellan; he said, ‘these guys are professional hitters, so you can’t take them lightly’,” Phelps told the media after the game. “That’s the biggest thing for me; you don’t want to come down here and take these guys for granted and let them get the best of you.”
Phelps also credited the Trenton staff, specifically pitching coach (and surname sharer) Tommy Phelps.
“Any time I take the mound, I try to keep the team in the game as long as I can,” Phelps said. “Tommy gave me a good scouting report before the game and helped me figure out where my game fit in.”
On the offensive side, the Thunder got all they would need from their first batter, Jose Pirela, who hit a solo home run off Sea Dogs starter Caleb Clay (3-2) to put Trenton up 1-0. Pirela homered again in the third to make it 2-0, and Rob Segedin hit a solo shot in the seventh – his first hit since being promoted to Trenton – to cap the scoring.
Danny Farquhar earned the save, retiring all seven men he faced in the final 2 1/3 innings.
With the win, the Thunder complete the first half of their EL slate with a 51-38 record, and they lead the Eastern Division by one game over the New Britain Rock Cats (50-39).
While a handful of his current teammates are headed to Reading, Pa., for Tuesday’s EL All-Star Game, Phelps is unsure what lies ahead in his immediate future – but whether his next assignment comes at the Double-A level, in the Majors, or somewhere else, he’ll be ready.
“All I know is that I have a few days off to visit my family,” he said in reference to the EL All-Star break. “My return flight comes into Philly on Thursday and we’ll go from there.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES