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Phelps battling for Yankees' fifth starter spot

03/16/2014 12:42 PM ET
By Doug Williams

Background: David Phelps is a 27-year old pitcher for the New York Yankees. In his two seasons in the big leagues, he's gone a combined 10-9 with a 4.11 ERA both in relief and as a starter. He is currently battling with Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno for the fifth and final spot in the Yankees rotation this season.

2013 Season: The 2013 season wasn't a great one for Phelps. He missed some time with a forearm injury in July and only appeared in twenty-two games -- started 12 of them --, posting a 4.98 ERA. He was slightly better as a starter than as a reliever but was generally inconsistent compared to his 2012 season.

Greatest Strength: Phelps knows how to pitch. He has been praised in the past by Joe Girardi for his mental toughness at his age and body language on the mound. He won't blow hitters away, but he also has good control and will make hitters earn it to get on base. Also, it doesn't hurt that he can pitch effectively both in relief and as a starter. That kind of flexibility all but guarantees him a roster spot this season. 

Greatest Weakness: His stuff isn't electric compared to his main competition, Michael Pineda. He isn't going to strike many hitters out or throw many complete games. While he's solid, the Yankees know what they can get out of him - whereas Pineda's a question mark with a very high ceiling.

Prediction: It's very possible that - believe it or not - Phelps will be promoted to the bullpen. Phelps has the kind of reliever mentality that would allow him to get a big out in the seventh or eighth inning, and the Yankees may value that higher than a No. 5 starter in terms of importance. It's also possible that Pineda will be given some time in the minors, leaving Phelps with the job at least at the start.

We're just going to have to wait and see.

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