There was that time last season when New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave that confidence to right-hander David Phelps. Because four-fifths of the Yankees pitching rotation was decimated with injuries, Phelps was that valuable commodity who could come out of the pen on short notice as a long man or a spot starter.
But for Phelps, who was traded in the offseason to the Miami Marlins, starting was more of the game plan in the Bronx last season. Girardi loved his work ethic and the ability to provide an emergency start that at one point got Phelps into the rotation.
“It definitely made me a better pitcher and I have nothing but respect for those guys,” Phelps said about the Yankees in the visitor’s locker room at Citi Field Friday evening. He once again got a start that was not planned because right-hander Henderson Alvarez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
Phelps had little time to prepare. Only days before, he was granted a maternity and as his wife gave birth to their third child. There would be a limit to his pitches in this start and manager Mike Redmond was pleased with the 4/2-3 third innings and the one-hit single that the Mets’ Wilmer Flores hit to right in the fifth inning.
The Mets won their sixth straight game over the Marlins but Phelps did not figure in the decision. And just like last year with the Yankees, getting a no-decision became a routine as getting run support from the low scoring Yankees was common. In 32 starts, Phelps had a 5-5 record with a 4.38 ERA, and there was that tendency to surrender the long ball, 13, and many of them hit at home run friendly Yankee Stadium.
In the fifth inning, and with a curve and fastball that until then had the Mets bats quiet, Phelps got into trouble when he walked two. The opposing pitcher, Bartolo Colon, who has suddenly become a sensation at the plate, hit a sacrifice fly and momentum shifted to the Mets.
“I thought he pitched great,” Redmond said. “He did exactly what he needed to do. I actually thought in that fifth inning, a couple of those walks, those pitches were close.” Phelps was targeted to throw around 70 or so pitches in his first start. He was lifted after going the limit of 75.
The 28-year old right-hander was acquired from the Yankees with infielder Martin Prado in exchange for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, infielder Garrett Jones and right-hander Domingo German. He had made two previous appearances out of the pen and allowed two hits in 0.2 innings against the Braves. Last week against Tampa Bay the box score read four runs, two hits, two walks in 0.1 inning.
There were instances last season in New York, and a time when the Yankees were forced to send Phelps down to Triple-A to work on his mechanics. But as time progressed, Girardi and the Yankees saw a pitcher maturing with every outing, and overall Phelps became the valuable fifth starter when CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova went down with injuries.
“I felt good,” he said about the start. “I’m frustrated with myself for not getting through at least five, and killing our bullpen. The ball was coming out well. I felt like we stuck to our game plan pretty good. For the first one, I’m pretty satisfied. I wish I could have gotten a little deeper into the ballgame.”
And for the Marlins, who are off to a 3-8 start, they hope Phelps can become the pitcher that was rapidly adjusting well with his role in the Bronx. Getting innings and keeping the team in games is the hope Phelps would provide. And there is the added insurance when Alvarez returns to the rotation,
“It can only get better,” Phelps said.
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