Runners at first and second with no outs in the first inning, David Phelps got out of it with a double play and a grounder to shortstop. Very next inning, runners at second and third with no outs, Phelps got a popup to first base, a strikeout and a ground ball to shortstop. Two innings, two jams, two escape acts.
“Cervy came out to me when we had second and third, no outs,” Phelps said. “He said, ‘Do you want to give up a run or do you not want to give up a run?’ I was like, I don’t want to give up a run, and so he was like, ‘Well alright, then go in on the guy.’ And that’s when we got the popup.”
That’s what defined Phelps’ second spring start tonight at Steinbrenner Field. A leadoff triple in the third inning eventually led to a run — the triple happened on a changeup, a pitch Phelps had decided to throw more than usual just to work on it — but ultimately he made big pitches when he had to. On-the-line situations are tough to replicate in spring training, but Phelps passed his first test.
“I thought he did a really good job of limiting damage,” Joe Girardi said. “He got into trouble and he got some really big outs when he had to. Big strikeouts, big double plays. That’s good to see, too. You don’t always want it to be smooth sailing where everything goes right. That’s not the way it’s going to be always during the season. You want them to be able to make pitches when they need to.”
Francisco Cervelli knew the game plan called for more changeups than usual, and he said he tried to pick his spots to let Phelps test the pitch. One of those spots was against David Lough leading off the third inning. Phelps left the pitch up, and Lough ripped a triple. The Yankees had gone ahead 2-0 the previous inning, and Phelps let the run score on a ground out that left the bases empty and the lead still intact. For early spring training, Phelps considered it a positive step.
“It’s more about managing a game at (that) point,” Phelps said. “I’m alright conceding a run right there, trying to just get outs at that point. Especially (after) we scored two runs and we had the momentum. You obviously want to have a shutdown inning, but if you can limit the damage right there and still keep us in the lead and keep us with the momentum, that’s a huge thing in a game. That’s how you win a lot of games.”
· Solo home run for Francisco Cervelli, who’s off to a terrific start this spring. He also drew a walk tonight, and he’s hitting .556. He said he just got lucky on the home run, but he’s clearly swinging the bat well this early in camp. “I’ve been working very hard with K-Long and can see the results,” Cervelli said. “But this is just trying to get ready for the season.”
· Fielding grounders during pregame batting practice, shortstop Brendan Ryan had just scooped a slow roller when a Yankees hitter smashed a line drive right at him. The ball hit Ryan’s left hand hard enough to knock his glove off. “I was lucky,” Ryan said. “Could have been a much worse spot.” The ball hit near the base of Ryan’s thumb. He was checked on the field but remained in the lineup with nothing worse than a bruise. “Pretty scary,” he said. “Kind of escaped one there.”
· Temporarily shut down because of right wrist soreness, outfield prospect Tyler Austin resumed baseball activities today. He took dry swings and played catch, and said his wrist felt even better than he expected. Felt no discomfort whatsoever. Said he’s not sure what’s next for him, but he’s hoping to progress to hitting off a tee soon.
· Being a lefty reliever is good work if you can get it. Matt Thornton’s Yankees debut consisted of one hitter. He came in with two outs and a runner on first base in the third inning, got Steve Pearce to ground to shortstop, and called it a day. Phelps and Brian Roberts were giving Thornton a bit of a hard time in the clubhouse. “Must be tired.” That sort of thing.
· Yankees starters through the weekend:
Wednesday: Adam Warren
Thursday: Masahiro Tanaka (sim game for CC Sabathia)
Friday: Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda splitting the start
Saturday: Ivan Nova
Sunday: David Phelps
· Another RBI by Yangervis Solarte, who has six already this spring. He’s homered twice, and today he had an RBI single. He’s batting .778 while playing four different positions. “He’s played really well, he really has,” Girardi said. “We’ve moved him around. He’s played all over the infield, and we put him in left field. He’s a switch hitter. He has (raised some eyebrows).”
· Heard good things about Chris Leroux’s early live batting practice sessions. Today he pitched two three-up, three-down innings with two strikeouts and nothing hit out of the infield. He’s one of those minor league free agent relievers who seems to have a legitimate shot at making this team if he pitches well.
· Scott Sizemore had a single in his first spring training appearance. The guy tore his ACL each of the past two seasons, so he’s been eased into game action, but he does seem to have a chance to make this team as a right-handed platoon option at second and third. “He looked OK,” Girardi said. “He’s been through a lot, and obviously each day that he goes out there I think he’s going to feel more comfortable and probably feel that he can overcome the stuff that he’s went through the last couple of years. But it was good to see him out there.”
· Even knowing he’s competing for a job, Phelps said he didn’t worry about going changeup heavy. It’s not his best pitch, but he felt the need to work on it, so he did. Might have burned him in the short term on the Lough triple, but Phelps said it’s ultimately a good thing. “At the end of the day, I know that’s a pitch that I need to get going to be successful,” he said.
· No new injuries, Girardi said. The plan was for Derek Jeter to get just two at-bats and be replaced by Brian McCann.
· Other game notes: Brian Roberts had a single and a walk in his first game ever against Baltimore. … The Cervelli homer was the Yankees only extra-base hit. Roberts, Sizemore, Ryan, Solarte, Russ Canzler and Francisco Arcia each singled. … Another scoreless, hitless inning for lefty Cesar Cabral. He did walk a guy, but he’s pitched well this spring. … Preston Claiborne and Brian Gordon also had scoreless innings. Chase Whitley was charged with two runs in his inning. He took the loss in a 3-2 game.
· Final word goes to Phelps: “You don’t want to have the first time you get in a tight spot to be when the season starts. Obviously everybody wants to come out in the spring and put up zeroes and have a perfect spring, but at the same time, it’s not a terrible thing to get into a jam in spring. It’s just a matter of working out of it.”
Associated Press photos