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David Phelps faces hitters during workout

02/14/2013 12:43 PM ET
By Jon Lane

David Phelps made an impression as a starter and reliever last season.(AP)

Poll

New York Yankees right-hander David Phelps, competing with Ivan Nova to break Spring Training as the team's fifth starter, threw 30 pitches to Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson on Thursday morning in Tampa, Fla.

"I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during Spring Training because I'm trying to make an impression," said Phelps, who threw to catching prospect J.R. Murphy. "It helped me out last year, my arm felt fresh throughout the entire year. I did the same routine I did last year coming into camp."

In 33 games (11 starts) last season, Phelps went 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA and 2-2, 3.77 as a spot starter. With an opportunity to make the Yankees' 25-man roster as at least a long reliever, Phelps is taking the time to use Spring Training as a learning experience.

"I didn't really have any set goals," Phelps said. "I'm just trying to get better every day. I don't want to look too far in advance because you can lose track of what you're doing today. I'm just trying to learn a little bit more every day, trying to pick guys' brains, whether it be Andy [Pettitte] or some of the other guys. I'm just trying to gain as much knowledge as I can about going out, doing your job and getting guys out."

Prior to Tuesday's formal reporting date for Yankees pitchers and catchers, pitching coach Larry Rothschild implied that Nova could have an inside track to round out the team's rotation based on his experience and history. Despite Nova's 12-8, 5.02 record in 2012, Rothschild is confident Nova can regain the form that saw him go 16-4 as a rookie.

“I don’t think I’ve got to prove anything to myself,” Nova said. “I know what I’ve got. I see a lot of veteran pitchers go through the same thing, go through that, and then find a way to get out of it. Hopefully this year will be better.”

Nova expressed confidence he'd leave camp as fifth starter and has incentive to improve. That incentive is Phelps, who like Nova the year before surprised when given a chance to pitch.

"I'm willing to do whatever they want me to do," Phelps said. "If being sent down to the Minors and keeping starting is what's in the best interest of the team and helping them win, that's obviously what I'll do. Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, whatever role that might be. I'm just going to go out and try to do my job on the field and let that take care of itself."

As for Nova, manager Joe Girardi succinctly summed up what lies ahead this spring.

"He has to go out and earn a job," Girardi said.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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