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David Phelps delivers for the Yankees in a pinch

Right-hander fans nine batters over four strong innings, gets win in relief of Nova
04/27/2013 1:56 AM ET
By Joe Auriemma

David Phelps earned the victory and Mariano Rivera picked up the save Friday night.(AP)
NEW YORK -- David Phelps is the positive story of the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday night. The injury bug once again bit the team, but it's performances like the one Phelps delivered that have helped the Yankees open the season 13-9.

Ivan Nova left early with an apparent elbow/triceps muscle injury in the third inning. The game was tied at one and the Blue Jays were threatening to take the lead when Phelps entered.

"When you see the trainer go out and I had a good feeling it was going to be me," Phelps said after the game. "You look at what our starters can do and what they've been able to do if they get the ball to the seventh inning. Our bullpen has really been taking over from there, and in the back of my mind that's what I was thinking. We got the lead and I was like alright just get the ball to Joba and let those guys take it from there."

This was a dicey situation for Phelps, who had struggled in his previous two appearances and looked overmatched in each outing. On April 18 against Arizona, he went two innings, allowing three earned runs. Three days later in Toronto, he went three innings, again allowing three runs.

Phelps just didn't seem to have his stuff, and his ERA ballooned to 6.23.

Right off the bat, Phelps gave up a run-scoring single to Colby Rasmus, which gave the Blue Jays a 2-1 edge. However, he settled in a struck out the always-dangerous Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to end the inning and avoid more damage.

From there, Phelps cruised. He gave the Yankees four strong innings, throwing 77 pitches and providing the length the bullpen desperately needed. He struck out a career-high nine batters to earn the victory and improve to 1-1 this season.

His only blemish was a solo home run by Encarnacion, but at that point the Yankees already had a two-run lead. The homer cut the advantage, but it was a lead the Yankees would never lose.

"The four innings and one-run ball is huge for us," catcher Chris Stewart said. "It's a tight ballgame when he came in. You never want your guy to come in and throw one or two innings as your long guy. He came in and did what he needed to do and more."

"Just get as much length into the game that you can," Phelps said. "Our offense is going to score runs and at that time it was a tie ballgame. You just have to go out there and pitch as deep into the game and take some of the burden off the bullpen as you can."

With the unknown injury to Nova still looming over the Yankees, Phelps would seemingly be the choice to take Nova's spot in the rotation if he were to miss time.

"He could probably give you 90 pitches if we needed him to," Girardi said of Phelps. However, the manager did say that without knowing the extent of Nova's injury, it's too early to say if Phelps would take the rotation spot.

Phelps seemed confident after the strong outing that he would be able to fill the starting role if he were needed in a pinch.

"My last two outings have both been on his day," Phelps said. "I think I was up to 70-something pitches today and so it's not my decision, but if that's what they want me to do, yeah, I think I'll be ready."

Whether he is needed to start in the future or not, Phelps' outing on Friday night was a key reason why the Yankees were able to get the win. He allowed the bullpen to stay rested for the two weekend games against the Jays, and he certainly earned his fifth career victory the hard way.

Follow Joe Auriemma on Twitter: @JoeAuriemmaYES

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