David Phelps could do almost anything for the Yankees this season, but it’s safe to say he’ll do something.
After Phelps threw a simulated game this morning, manager Joe Girardi said he’s expecting to have David Phelps break camp with the Yankees, it’s just a matter of figuring out which role he’s going to play.
“I think that’s pretty fair to say, that you expect him to do something,” Girardi said. “He’s thrown the ball well, and you expect him to continue to help us. … I think he’s pretty much capable of doing whatever you ask him to do. There’s a lot of things we have to evaluate this spring, and he’s a big part, trying to figure out where he fits in.”
For now, Phelps is in the competition for the fifth starter spot. Michael Pineda has gotten most of the attention in that competition, but Phelps is certainly the most familiar face. It’s now been two years since Phelps was a kind of surprise addition to the 2012 Opening Day roster. Bouncing among various roles that season, he finished with nearly 100 innings and a 3.34 ERA. Last year, his ERA bumped to 4.98 in a year cut short by a forearm issue.
“He has not had any issues this spring,” Girardi said. “But I do believe it’s something you have to watch.”
As he’s done through most of his career — both in the minor leagues and in the majors — Phelps has mostly avoided the spotlight this spring. He hasn’t attracted much attention, but he looms as a possibility for either the rotation, a long relief job, or possibly as a setup candidate. It seems inevitable that he’s going to play a role, it’s just a matter of figuring out which one.
“Phelpsy’s a guy who we believe can help us in so many different roles,” Girardi said. “He knows how to pitch, he’s got four pitches, and he knows how to use them all. And he knows how to locate. That’s the key, for him, is location.”
· Right field prospect Tyler Austin is hoping his latest wrist setback costs him only a couple of days. He began feeling discomfort earlier in the week, but he didn’t mention it to the coaching staff until today. “I thought it was one of those things I could just get through,” he said. Ultimately, Austin decided to speak up to make sure he didn’t play his way into something more serious. “Just a little sore,” he said.
· It’s worth noting that Austin has been in Tampa since January 13, so he’s been hitting for a while, but Austin said all of his at-bats were closely monitored and he wasn’t taking a ton of swings. “It’s not like I’m overdoing it,” he said.
· Nik Turley is also optimistic that today’s arm soreness is a non-issue. He spent some time with the training staff today and said he’s not concerned. “Just a little soreness,” he said. “Nothing’s wrong.”
· It actually turned into a pretty nice day here in Tampa. The Yankees were able to get on the field for batting practice, but most of the veteran guys — Derek Jeter and Co. — hit inside rather than on the field. There were a handful of live BP sessions, though. Manny Banuelos seemed pretty sharp. “I like what I see,” Girardi said.
· Jose Campos has not yet faced hitters this spring, but he said he’s expecting to throw live batting practice next week. He said his bullpens have been strong, and he’s feeling no discomfort in his elbow (which cost him most of the 2012 season). The Yankees limited his innings last season — and they’ll surely do that to some extent this year — but Campos said he hasn’t been told anything about the plan for this season. He just knows he feels good and feels like he’s throwing the ball pretty well. “He looks really good,” Girardi said.
· Worth noting that today the Orioles signed outfielder Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8-million deal. It comes right on the heels of the Orioles signing Ubaldo Jimenez. “Adds to their lineup, gives them another big right-handed bat who’s been a run producer,” Girardi said. “I’m sure they’re excited about the moves they’ve made in the last 24 hours. … It even makes them better, is what it does. And our division gets tougher and tougher, it seems, every year. And you expect it to be extremely tough this year.”
· The Yankees first exhibition game is Tuesday against Florida State University (a team that includes Heisman winner Jameis Winston). Girardi said he hasn’t decided which veterans will play in the game, but some of them will probably play an inning or two. “I might put a few in there,” Girardi said. “I’ve got to see where they are, maybe one at-bat and get them going.”
· Randomly asked Shane Greene about Gary Sanchez’s defense today. I was surprised by just how emphatic Greene was in his praise of Sanchez’s improvement behind the plate. Greene’s been pitching to Sanchez for several years now and said he no longer thinks Sanchez’s defense is an issue. He said Sanchez has gotten night-and-day better behind the plate, and that Sanchez does a good job controlling the running game. Greene himself had a breakout year last season, and he did it while largely pitching to Sanchez. I didn’t expect Greene to rip Sanchez’s defense, but I was surprised by the overwhelming language he used. Said he’s come to really like pitching to him.
· Here’s Girardi on what he’s seen from Sanchez this spring: “He’s grown up, and physically he’s getting better every year, which is important because your workload has to increase every year. And if you want to play in the big leagues, your workload can really get heavy. We think he’s made some really good strides in that area.”
· Final word goes to Girardi, and it’s his response to a question about Jesus Montero showing up out of shape in Mariners camp: “You’re always a little bit surprised. Sometimes you’re not sure why things happen, but I think Lloyd (McClendon) said it best — you worry about the guys in your camp.”
Associated Press photos