With a strong start against the Blue Jays, David Phelps makes a case for himself as a regular starer

05/18/2013 8:32 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

David Phelps struck out eight over a career-high seven innings.(AP)
The New York Yankees have suffered many setbacks this season with injuries but it has not derailed their winning ways. One shining example of a player stepping up and contributing on a high level has been David Phelps. This young spot starter has been able to provide the Yankees with quality outings during his year-plus with the team. But with the way he is currently pitching, he may earn himself more consistent starts in the Yankees' rotation going forward.

Phelps was terrific against the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. He got into and out of trouble several times during the course of the game and, even though he didn't have his best stuff, Phelps battled hard enough to give the Yankees a career-high seven innings.

The tone was set in the first inning when Phelps, with two on, two out and the power hitting Adam Lind up at the plate, picked off Jose Bautista to end the inning.

"I was kind of all over the place and I didn't really feel like I had my best command again, kind of same thing like I had in Cleveland," Phelps said of his performance. "When I needed to make a pitch, I was able to. Romine really helped me out, just walked me through it, and we talked. I was good in the bullpen. I talked to Larry and he said I was probably a little too amped. The pickoff in the first was huge because I really settled down after that."

"We've always envisioned him as a starter from the time he came up," Joe Girardi said of Phelps. "It's not just that he's able to locate or change speeds, but he does all the other little things right, too. You think about the pickoff in the first inning, where he's struggling with his command. He's in the middle of their order and Arencibia, who has a ton of power; Lind, a ton of power. He got out of it because he can do the little things as well."

All in all, Phelps gave the team length and showed the maturity to get through a performance even when things weren't going his way. The Yankees won the game 7-2 to take the first two games against Toronto in the home series, giving them a chance to sweep on Sunday.

Since Phelps' mediocre first start, where he had really just one bad inning, he has been brilliant in place of the injured Ivan Nova. Over his last three starts against the Rockies, at Cleveland and home against the Blue Jays, he's 1-1, with a 1.83 ERA, 19 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings pitched and opponents are hitting just .191 against him. He's even lowered his season ERA from 5.56 to 3.83 during that stretch.

The Yankees continued dominance over the Blue Jays this season, where the Yankees are now 8-1 against them, has been about starting pitching and timely hitting. What better way to get a timely performance in a big spot than from the Yankees best player, Robinson Cano? Cano gave Phelps all the run support he needed with his two-homer game. However, Cano credited the top-notch pitching performance by Phelps.

"He was great," Cano said. "That was unbelievable, and especially against that team, they got great guys that can swing and guys that hit for power so that was a great job by him today."

Austin Romine, Phelps' batterymate, agreed with his starter that it was a battle all day, but there seemed to be a good rapport between catcher and pitcher, especially when they needed to really buckle down.

"His sinker was working," Romine said of Phelps. "We were throwing it on the outside corner to mow it over. His curveball was good. He could throw it on any count. We were really just trying to mix it up a lot, keep them off balance."

If Phelps continues his current trend, he's going to give the Yankees a very tough decision -- one that the Yankees will be more than happy to make.

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