Is Freddy Garcia looking over his shoulder?

07/20/2012 12:15 PM ET
By Jon Lane

David Phelps' performance has been turning heads around the Yankees.(AP)
Despite allowing four runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings pitched Thursday in Oakland, Freddy Garcia remains part of the Yankees’ starting five. But just like the start of the season, the Chief may be on borrowed time.

When Garcia was relegated to long relief at the end of April, it was due to a 12.51 ERA. He pitched well out of the bullpen and received a second chance to start once Andy Pettitte went down with a broken fibula. He was OK (2 ER, 5 H, 5.1 IP) and solid (1 ER, 6 H, 6.2 IP) in his first two July starts, but Garcia then walked a season-high five innings against the Angels on July 15 and labored again Thursday night. His current line as a starter is 2-3 with a 7.18 ERA.

“I couldn't find my stuff [Thursday]," Garcia said. "I couldn't find any of my pitches ... I don't throw 95 mph. For most of the game, I couldn't make pitches when I wanted.”

There’s another unwanted element hovering over Garcia, David Phelps, who in relief on Thursday struck out four in 2.1 innings of work and retired all seven men he faced. Including the Minors, Phelps has 35 strikeouts in his last 23.2 innings pitched. Compared to the Chief (4-3, 5.37 overall), Phelps is 2-0, 2.89, as a starting pitcher in both the Majors and Triple-A.

Joe Girardi said on Thursday night that Phelps won't be relegated to long relief, rather in situations where Cory Wade once excelled. But based on Thursday night and the last couple of weeks, one has to wonder if Garcia is back on a short leash. Phelps has been so good, and he’s an integral part of the Yankees’ future and present.

Some have asked why Phelps was recalled on July 18 in the first place when the original intent was to keep him working and stretched out in the Minors during the All-Star break. It was inevitable Phelps was coming back and the man optioned to Triple-A to make room for him, D.J. Mitchell, needs much more work. Phelps wasn’t starting on Thursday either, not after Garcia was afforded the time to prepare for that particular outing.

Will the Yankees put Garcia back in the bullpen, where he was 2-0, 1.56 in 10 appearances before Pettitte’s injury, and give Phelps a legit shot to perform at least until Pettitte returns in September? Share your thoughts below, or Tweet me at @JonLaneNYC. comments