Returning to Double-A to stay stretched out as a starter, Phelps allowed one hit, one walk and struck out 11 through 6.2 innings this afternoon. It was his first Double-A start since the first half of 2010, and my friend Mike Ashmore texted me while I was on my way home from Boston to say it was one of the most dominant performances he’d ever seen.
Question is, what happens next? The Yankees want to keep Phelps stretched out — I’m sure they’d like to have him available for another spot start if necessary — but they’re down to one long man in the bullpen, which means Phelps could back to New York to reclaim his Opening Day role at the big league level. The only reason they sent him down in the first place was that he and Freddy Garcia gave them more long relievers than they needed.
That said, there’s no telling how much work a long man will get from day to day, and D.J. Mitchell isn’t a throw-away pitcher. He’s given the Yankees plenty of reasons to think he can do the job, and the Yankees seem to like him. But Joe Girardi and the big league staff have seen more of Phelps, and he’s given them every reason to trust him.
What’s the move? When the Yankees come back from the All-Star break, would you rather see Phelps as a big league reliever or a minor league starter? In other words, is he more valuable as an immediate asset out of the bullpen, or as a ready-and-waiting backup plan for the rotation?