David Phelps had the bases empty with two outs in the fifth. He’d allowed one run on five hits, no walks and five strikeouts. He was well on his way to another strong start, one perfectly in keeping with his strong spring. Then he walked Jason Heyward.
“Before that, for the 4.2 innings, I felt like I was as locked in as I’ve been,” Phelps said. “… Two-out walk and it snowballed. I was too worried about him hurting me there and just started getting behind guys. Fastball felt good today, all my pitches felt good. Probably the best command-wise and stuff-wise I’ve felt this spring, but a little lapse right there. Didn’t bear down with two outs and it led to three more runs.”
Walk to Heyward. RBI single by Justin Upton. Three-run homer crushed by Juan Francisco. Before Phelps could strikeout Evan Gattis to finally end that fifth, his night had crumbled into his worst outing of the spring. It’s one of those games that managers talk about when they say they’re interested in more than numbers in spring training.
“He made some mistakes, got into some long counts, got behind a little bit, which hurt him,” Joe Girardi said. “But overall, I think it’s a progressive day for him. It’s progress.”
Girardi said he plans to keep using Phelps and Ivan Nova as starters until the Yankees are certain that Phil Hughes will be ready to open the season, which might not happen until after the team breaks camp. There’s no rush to name a fifth starter, because the Yankees might need six starters for the first week or so. But Phelps said he’s not even taking a roster spot for granted.
“There’s two weeks left and we’re still in camp,” Phelps said. “I’ll let you know when they announce the roster what I’ve achieved. I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything up to this point.”
• Eduardo Nunez led off the game with a sharp single, but the moment that stood out was his sharp play in the sixth inning that started a 6-4-3 double play. He really does look more consistent in the field this spring. “He’s worked really hard,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of extra work for him, and he’s worked really hard and I think it’s paying off.”
• Two Yankees errors in this one. Jayson Nix was charged with an error on a fairly tough — but playable — ball to third, and Melky Mesa was charged with an error when he tried to throw out Heyward at the plate in the fifth inning. Mesa’s throw went way, way, way over Francisco Cervelli’s head and let the batter stretch a single to third base. “Got away from him a little bit,” Girardi said. “There you’ve got to hit the cutoff man and not let the guy get to second.”
• By the way, Girardi assured that Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco do not have big league jobs sewn up. He was specifically asked about Mesa and said he’s still very much in contention. Brian Cashman said essentially the same thing this afternoon. “There is no guarantee for anything,” Girardi said. “We will continue to evaluate these guys as we move forward.”
• Girardi said he never saw Ronnier Mustelier today. I saw him briefly at Steinbrenner Field but didn’t have a chance to ask how he was feeling. Girardi said he’s still expecting Mustelier to be back in the lineup on Tuesday. Won’t play tomorrow.
• The Yankees were shutout in both games today. They lost 7-0 in Tampa and 4-0 here in Orlando. “(The runs) weren’t here today,” Girardi said. “They weren’t in Florida for us today.”
• Nice to see lefty Jeremy Bleich, who I got to know a little bit over at the minor league complex years ago. He was a supplemental pick back in 2008, but he’s hardly pitched since 2009 because of injury problems. The Yankees have now shifted him to the bullpen, and today he threw one pitch to retire his only batter (lefty Blake Dewitt). Bleich said his arm finally feels good and strong again. He sounded optimistic. It would be interesting to see him pitch his way back onto the roster. The Yankees liked his arm quite a bit when they drafted him.
• Robinson Cano was named the MVP of his pool of the World Baseball Classic. “Maybe he can get two MVPs in one year,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photo