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Phelps and Mitchell emerging as valuable assets

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When the Yankees went into spring training, their projected Triple-A rotation included five young pitchers ranked among their top 21 prospects according to Baseball America: Manny Banuelos  was No. 2, Dellin Betances  was No. 3, Adam Warren was No. 15, D.J. Mitchell was No. 16 and David Phelps ranked No. 21.

You might have noticed it’s lowest-ranked of the group that just moved into the big league rotation, and the second lowest who was just called up to the big league bullpen.

[2]“Any time you’re in consideration for a starting role on this team, it’s a big deal,” Phelps said. “With the quality arms we have on this team, I don’t take it lightly.”

Phelps and Mitchell — and Warren to a slightly lesser extent — have been overshadowed by Betances and Banuelos, but Phelps has proven he can pitch at the Major League level, and Mitchell was easily the best starter in that Triple-A rotation. There’s no doubt that age plays a part in this — Betances and Banuelos are younger than the other three — but it’s also a reminder that a player can move fairly quietly through the system (cough … Ivan Nova … cough) and emerge as a significant role player. Phelps, Mitchell and Warren more or less came up through the system together, and it was obvious during their three-man, long-relief competition this spring that they were pulling for one another.

“To an extent it really wasn’t disappointing (to be sent down) knowing it was going to be one of us three,” Mitchell said. “I’ve known Phelps since Day 1, and I’ve known Warren for a while too. Either way, I think we were proud of each other. Of course you’re going to be disappointed when you’re told you’re getting sent down, but it’s not as bad to be here now. I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s the greatest. I know I’ll be asking Phelps a lot of questions and try to take the best of it, run with it and see what happens.”

See what happens.

It’s a common phrase in spring training and in the minor leagues, especially when opportunities seem few and far between. In mid-March, the Yankees seemed to have six big league starters plus Andy Pettitte. There was little room for anyone from that projected Triple-A rotation to crack the big league pitching staff. Now Phelps and Mitchell have big league lockers just a few feet from one another.

“I learned real quick, especially this spring, to not have expectations about what’s going to happen,” Phelps said. “I just kind of go out and do what I can control and just kind of go from there. … It’s exciting for me because we were talking in spring training – me, Adam and D.J. – and if one of is going to get a chance, it’s exciting for the other ones because they’re right there with us. I’m so excited that D.J. got called up. It’s two of my best friends. It’s exciting to see our hard work pay off.”

Associated Press photo