Exactly one year ago, David Phelps was in a Tampa hospital, a few hours away from the birth of his daughter. That’s the personal story. The professional story is that one year ago Phelps had never pitched an inning in the big leagues, wasn’t sure the Yankees would have a roster spot for him, and still had some doubts about whether he could perform at the big league level.
“I’m more comfortable as far as going out and knowing I can do this,” Phelps said. “It’s just a matter of going out and doing it now. Last year there was still a little bit of uncertainty whether or not I was capable of doing it. I hadn’t. Coming in this year, they’re definitely that comfort level knowing I’ve had a little bit of success and hopefully carry it over.”
That’s why it’s a little easier to dismiss an outing like this one. Phelps legitimately struggled tonight. He’d been sharp most of the spring, with relatively minor hiccups here and there. Tonight, he was in trouble most of the game, escape some early jams and finally had things fall apart in a five-run fourth inning. All told, Phelps allowed six hits, three walks and struck out six through 3.2 innings.
“I thought he struggled with his command today,” Joe Girardi said.
“Early on got some big strikeouts with guys on,” Phelps said. “But in those situations, I was getting strikeouts, but those guys were seeing five, six pitches. Next time through the lineup, they’ve seen everything, so they’re getting a little bit better look next time through.”
Phelps will get one more start this spring — probably next Wednesday, after CC Sabathia pitches Tuesday — and at this point, it’s hard to think he won’t be on the roster in one capacity or another.
“He’s a young, under-control starter, so I’ve heard his name quite often (in trade talks),” Brian Cashman said. “I’m not looking to move him. I’m only looking to move the bad stuff.”
• Slight change in plans for Travis Hafner, who will not make the road trip tomorrow and will instead play at the minor league complex just to get more at-bats. He can hit every inning in a minor league game, and I’ve even seen guys play in two minor league games at the same time, going back and forth between fields to get a dozen or so at-bats in a day.
• Welcome back Robinson Cano, who had the Yankees only hit in this 6-1 loss to the Twins. Cano is going to play again tomorrow. Girardi said he doesn’t feel any need to back off with Cano after the World Baseball Classic.
• Kevin Youkilis seemed to be stretching a lot after going first to third on a fourth-inning error, and Youkilis was pulled from the game the very next inning. Suspicious, but Youkilis said it was a non-issue. “I’m all good,” he said.
• And speaking of false alarms, Hafner was icing his right wrist after the game, but he said he ices the wrist every other day or so just as a precaution. He had some trouble with it way back in 2001 and has iced it regularly ever since.
• Phil Hughes will pitch in a minor league game tomorrow, which gives him time to make three starts — including tomorrow’s — before the Yankees would need him in the big league rotation. That might be enough time for Hughes to be ready, but the Yankees seem prepared to hold back and let Hughes skip a start rather than hurry to get him ready to break camp. “That’s something that we really have to look at,” Girardi said. “Let’s just see how he does these next two turns and then we’ll make a decision, but as I told him, worst case scenario is maybe you miss one start.”
• Clay Rapada could throw a flat-ground bullpen this weekend, but it seems very unlikely that he’ll actually break camp with the team. “I think it’s a small possibility,” Girardi said. “But it’s something that we’ve got to see how he progresses. It’s getting kind of late now.”
• Random A-Rod update: Cashman said Alex Rodriguez is still doing physical therapy and has yet to do any sort of baseball activity since his hip surgery. “I text him about once a week,” Girardi said. “He says his rehab is going well. He feels pretty good. He’s doing more and more every week I talk to him.”
• Mariano Rivera allowed a leadoff single, then struck out three in a row. It’s what he does.
Associated Press photos