Ivan Nova is lost for the year, Michael Pineda won’t be back until August at the earliest, and CC Sabathia is shooting for some time after the All-Star break. For the next month — barring another injury — the Yankees rotation is set. David Phelps, Chase Whitley and Vidal Nuno aren’t replacement starters at this point. They’re just starters.
And as long as the pitch the way they’ve pitched lately, that’s just fine.
“Literally and figuratively big shoes (to fill),” Phelps said. “It’s something we definitely take pride in. We all have confidence in our ability, and we know what we’re capable of doing. It’s just a matter of going out and showing it. We wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have faith in us to go out and get the job done. That’s one thing that we just have continue to do is show that we’re able to do it.”
Last night, Phelps allowed two hits through 6.2 innings against the best team in the American League. Two nights ago, Chase Whitley pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his professional career. This current four-game winning streak started with Nuno squeaking through 5.2 innings with just one run.
“That’s what good teams do,” Mark Teixeira said. “You’re not going to go through a season completely healthy; you’re always going to have to have guys step in whether it’s a bullpen guy moving to the rotation or a young guy coming up. … In the past it’s been guys like Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon; guys that have done it before. (This year) it’s mostly unproven guys, which is just fun to watch. I love seeing young guys out there that aren’t afraid to take the ball in big situations. Phelps is one of those guys. He wants to be out there in every single big situation.”
Ready for this? Phelps is also the second most veteran pitcher in the Yankees rotation. Hiroki Kuroda is the old man, then there are three rookies — Masahiro Tanaka is what he is, I get that — and Phelps is the seasoned veteran in his third big leagues season. He and Nova and Adam Warren surely sparked some confidence in other young guys in the system — guys like Nuno, Whitley and Jose Ramirez — that there will be opportunities to get to the big leagues in this organization.
“I talked about it with Adam last year and we talked about it earlier this year,” Phelps said. “Kind of open up eyes for some of our younger guys to come up and get a chance. You see what Ram is doing for us now. The more chances that we get, the more success that we have, it’s just great for everybody.”
Which means it’s great for the Yankees.
“Our job right now is to go out and win ballgames,” Phelps said. “We don’t view ourselves as fill-ins. That’s what it essentially was, but at the same time, we’ve made enough starts right now that, it’s what we’re going to be throwing out there every fifth day. We’re learning as we go and trying to feed off of Hiro and Tanaka. Especially us young guys, trying to learn as much from them as possible. Even some of our bullpen guys that have done it a little more, just pick their brain about everything. It really helps being at home when CC’s around and being able to talk to him. It’s what I did with Andy the last two years. … I guess it’s a good thing to be around long enough to be considered a veteran, but I won’t put that label on myself, that’s for sure.”
Associated Press photos