Nearly three weeks ago, David Phelps pitched into the seventh inning against the Reds, and his strong pitching line left little reason to question whether his health. He made his next start, pitched well again, he seemed to be on a real roll with absolutely no cause for concern.
Turns out, his elbow had been bothering him.
Tonight’s injury is nothing new. Phelps first felt discomfort in the back of his elbow, near the triceps, on July 18. He was sent for an MRI after that start, and the test came back clean. No ligament damage, just a little tightness that had a tendency to loosen up as Phelps pitched.
Phelps said he came off the mound after the second inning fully prepared to tell Joe Girardi that his elbow was bothering him. Before he could say anything, Girardi told Phelps he was out of the game. He was removed due to ineffectiveness, not because of the injury. When Phelps mentioned that his elbow was bothering him, the team decided to send him for further tests tomorrow.
“It’s not like it’s in here (by the ligament),” Girardi said. “It’s back up by the triceps a little bit. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. … I believe he’s going to pitch again (this year). I don’t know if it’ll be his next turn, but I believe he’s going to pitch again. Like I said, he had the MRI before and it came back clean. He might need a little time out.”
Pitchers obviously worry about any arm issue, so Phelps is of course concerned, but he doesn’t seem overwhelmed. It doesn’t hurt him on breaking balls. Phelps said it’s mostly when he gets fully extended that he feels it.
“I’ve never had elbow issues, so I don’t know what is bad feeling,” he said. “Any time it’s your arm, there is concern, but it loosens up, that’s one (positive) thing. We already had one MRI, and it was clean. … After we got the first MRI, we sat down with Doc and he said, ‘Listen, as long as it’s not getting worse, we’re good.’ The ligament was clean, everything was good. Today was what really set me off is today was the day it was worse. Had to say something. We’ll find out what it is tomorrow and go from there.”
Even a short-term injury to Phelps is quite a blow for the Yankees. One inning got away from him last time out, but for the most part Phelps has pitched extremely well lately. He’s been one of the biggest reasons this rotation has held up despite long-term injuries to four starters. The Yankees will miss Phelps, even if he misses only one start.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I felt like coming into this start I was throwing the ball the best I had in my career consistently. Any time we’re talking about a DL stint, it’s frustrating. I was really enjoying helping the team win ballgames. It’s frustrating. We’re playing better baseball and I feel like we’re about to go on a run.”
• If Phelps has to miss a start, Girardi said new reliever Esmil Rogers would be a candidate to spot start. Rogers was working as a starter in Triple-A with the Blue Jays, and he pitched three hitless innings tonight. “He’s obviously built up,” Girardi said. “Obviously we’ve got some time to think about it. We wouldn’t pitch him tomorrow anyway, but we’ve got some time to think about it. We’ll have a decision for you.”
• What was working for Rogers? For one thing, he was consistently throwing his fastball at 95 mph. “I think my fastball command was really important for me,” he said. “That was the key for tonight. You see how many fastballs I can throw today. I don’t throw too many sliders.”
• Just getting innings from Rogers was big because Girardi said he didn’t want to use either Adam Warren or Shawn Kelley, so someone had to bridge the gap to Dellin Betances and Dave Robertson, and Rogers did that by himself.
• Obviously it seems the elbow was a real problem tonight, but how exactly did the elbow issue impact Phelps? “I feel like my command was there for the most part,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was struggling with my stuff. It was just up in the zone.”
• Rogers became the 29th different Yankees pitcher this season. That’s a new franchise record for pitchers used in a single season. Historic!
• Another good night for the Yankees offense, and another huge night for Brett Gardner who reached base four times and had the game-winning home run in the sixth. It was his fifth homer in the past six games. He has the most home runs out of the leadoff spot of anyone in baseball. His 44 RBI out of the leadoff spot are the second-most in baseball. “I’m just happy I’ve been able to go out there and repeat my swing, swing at good pitches to hit and not chase too many balls out of the zone,” Gardner said. “Be a patient hitter but also be aggressive in the strike zone.”
• Also hitting pretty well lately is Carlos Beltran, who had another two-hit game to tie a career-high with six straight multi-hit games. He’s had at least one hit in 10 straight games. “He’s been big,” Girardi said. “He’s swinging the bat extremely well. The big thing is to keep him away from batting screens and whatever else we have to keep him away from.”
• Also with a two-hit game, new second baseman Stephen Drew. He matched his second-high with four RBI and once again played a sharp and often impressive game at second base. Tiny sample size, but Drew’s been pretty good in his first three days with the Yankees. “Our reports on Stephen Drew were that he was swinging the bat a lot better,” Girardi said. “This is a good player. He didn’t have a lot of at-bats to get ready for the season; he was rushed and I think it probably took him some time to get going.”
• How has Drew felt at second? “As comfortable as I can be for three games when I haven’t played since high school,” he said. “I am enjoying it. I am going to embrace it and to be able to play with Jeter his last year — who I looked up to when I was growing up — it’s special. I am going to soak this in.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “We’ve got a great group of guys and we continue to fight. Esmil Rogers came in and did a great job. He’s a guy we’ve faced the last couple of seasons with Toronto and he’s got real good stuff. He came in in the middle of the game and really put a stop to everything. Hopefully we can take this momentum home with us.”
Associated Press photos
David Phelps was a little concerned heading into his MRI. After winning his last start in Minnesota July 4, he went up to trainer Steve Donohue to ask for anti-inflammatory medication because he had been feeling a little stiffness in his right forearm near the elbow. Donohue told him a doctor visit was in order.
“There’s a lot less concern now after the MRI than there was,” Phelps said about the diagnosis of a slight straight. “Any time it’s your arm, there’s some concern. When (the doctor) came and said the ligament looked great, that was obviously reassuring. It’s just something minor. We can take care of that and go from there.”
The arm had been bothering him for a few days, but he said he didn’t feel it throwing.
“It was like weird times, like if I was laying in bed and I’d roll over,” Phelps said. “It would feel stiff.”
After ice and rest, he feels good to go again.
“My arm feels great now,” Phelps said. “It’s back to the way it felt before. I don’t expect it to bother me at all.”
Phelps spent some time with his family the last few days. He won’t be off during the All-Star break. He said he’s probably going to go to Tampa. He plans to throw on Monday. So barring any setbacks, he should be ready when he’s eligible to return from the DL next Saturday.
Alex Rodriguez had a single and an RBI in three at-bats today as a DH in Tampa’s 5-2 loss to Dunedin. So he’s 2 for 15 after six rehab games. There has been no lobbying campaign for a quick return like Derek Jeter has staged.
“I think Alex feels that he’s not to that level, that he’s not ready to go,” Joe Girardi said.
Jeter is scheduled to play tonight in Moosic for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Rochester. The Yankees have left open the possibility he will return for the weekend series here against the Twins. Girardi said he didn’t think it wasn’t an issue to bring back Jeter for that series if he’s ready even though there would be four off days afterward with the All-Star break.
Girardi also said he’d like to see Jeter go seven or eight innings at short in the minors first.
“We have to make sure he’s ready,” Girardi said.
The Yankees scored one run Tuesday night for the third straight game, but the lineup is the same. Any thought to doing some juggling?
“What would you suggest?” Girardi asked.
I’d suggest a trade for more help beyond just Jeter. Actually, there are reports circulating today that the Yankees are shopping free agents-to-be Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in their search for hitting help. Anyone in favor?
Photo by The Associated Press.
The ESPN news flash had spread that MLB plans to suspend about 20 players. One of them, Alex Rodriguez, could be facing a 100-game suspension in relation to allegedly purchasing PEDs from the now-closed anti-aging clinic in south Florida. Why he would do that after having to admit previously that he had used while with the Rangers is beyond me. He has denied this latest claim.
Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli are also among those on the list.
“I always worry about my players,” Joe Girardi said. “And I worry about the game. … If you care about the game, you care about how it’s affected. I think we all hoped we kind of got through it. But obviously we’re not through it yet.”
The steroid era lives on.
Vernon Wells didn’t think this subject would be a distraction to the Yankees. He’s hoping the steroid era will die one day.
“We’ve done so much as a group to rid ourselves of conversations like this, stepping outside of our agreement and making changes in the middle of it,” Vernon Wells said. “We’ll continue to make strides to clean the game up. … I know I’ll never be a part of this conversation.”
Joba Chamberlain said: “Major League Baseball is going to do its thing and we’re going to go out and play.”
As for David Phelps’ performance, it was sure better than the last start when he got one out and was charged with five runs against the Mets.
“I’ve been chomping at the bit since the last outing,” Phelps said.
His fastball command came and went in this start. But it was there when he needed it. Phelps threw 102 pitches and allowed just one infield hit to go with four walks and seven Ks in six innings.
“He kind of ran the game,” Terry Francona said. “He mixed everything up and we didn’t have anything to show for it. We made him work. We took our walks. We couldn’t push any runs across. It’s rare that you see getting one hit and look up and see a bunch of pitches like that. He did a very good job of not giving in, mixing things up, elevating and cutting.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Thursday morning notes: Phelps faces hitters • 02.14.13
Around 9 a.m., David Phelps went to the mound on the main field here in Tampa. He wasn’t tucked away in the back, wasn’t shuffled to the minor league complex. He was in front of the empty seats, facing live hitters, throwing live batting practice on just the second day of workouts at Steinbrenner Field.
“I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression,” Phelps said. “It helped me out last year, my arm felt fresh throughout the entire year. I did the same routine I did last year coming into camp.”
Last year Phelps made an impression and got an unexpected opportunity. What he did with that opportunity has made him a favorite to win at least a spot in the Yankees bullpen, and it’s given him at least a chance of being out Ivan Nova for the last spot in the rotation.
This morning Phelps threw 30 pitches while facing Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson.
“I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do,” Phelps said. “If being sent down to the minors and keeping starting is what’s in the best interest of the team and helping them win, that’s obviously what I’ll do. Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, whatever role that might be. I’m just going to go out and try to do my job on the field and let that take care of itself.”
• So far, no sign of new reliever Shawn Kelley. Not sure when he’s supposed to arrive.
• With so many pitchers already facing hitters — and so few position players currently in big league camp — the Yankees are actually sending a van over to the minor league complex later this morning. A dozen pitchers will go to the complex to throw live batting practice to the hitters across the street.
• Four pitchers threw live batting practice here at Steinbrenner Field this morning. Phelps, Adam Warren, Cody Eppley and Brett Marshall. Throwing programs assigned to minor leaguers started a little earlier than usual this winter, which helps explain why so many guys are ready to face hitters already.
• Phelps threw to J.R. Murphy and Marshall threw to Gary Sanchez. Those two faced Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson. Eppley threw to Kyle Higashioka and Warren threw to Francisco Arcia. Those two faced Chris Stewart and Austin Romine.
• Early sides: Joba Chamberlain (to Stewart) and Ivan Nova (to Cervelli).
• Going to the complex to throw live batting practice: Corey Black, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Nick Goody, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Mark Montgomery, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder, Nik Turley and Chase Whitley.
• Bullpens at Steinbrenner Field (with the catcher they’ll throw to):
Dellin Betances (Romine)
Jose Ramirez (Arcia)
Dave Robertson (Wilson)
Francisco Rondon (Higashioka)
Josh Spence (Sanchez)
Cell phone photo of Phelps throwing BP, Associated Press photo of Sabathia
Andy Pettitte loved the idea of pitching in the World Baseball Classic. The Yankees did not.
“They weren’t crazy about it, and I understand it,” Pettitte said. “I mean, it’s understandable. I spoke with Cash and I spoke with Joe. (They said), ‘If you decide to do this, we’re going to support you,’ but obviously they were hoping it was something that I wouldn’t do, and like I said, I understand it. And at the time that I was considering it, I was just hoping they would understand, which I knew they probably couldn’t. I’ve done a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never had a chance to play for my country. I don’t know if that sounds corny, but it was a big deal for me.”
Doesn’t sound corny to me, but it also doesn’t sound unreasonable for the Yankees to have some hesitation about a 40-year-old playing in an unnecessary exhibition.
“This needed to be the focus,” Pettitte said. “I guess it just came down to not really wanting to take quite that chance of having something go wrong and then kicking yourself all year long.”
• The spring’s first workout went smoothly, but it’s always a little more boring when it’s just the pitchers and catchers. The position players really bring the place to life. Two interesting pitch counts: Phil Hughes threw 40 pitches and Clay Rapada threw 35. Rapada joked that he’s going to be a long man. Hughes explained that he’d already thrown six bullpens before today.
• Hughes isn’t alone. Quite a few of the pitchers seem more advanced than usual (including Mariano Rivera, who actually threw a bullpen today rather than waiting another week). Some of the younger guys in camp — including guys like David Phelps, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley who could be in the big league mix — have already faced hitters. Phelps, Warren and Whitley threw batting practice at the minor league complex on Monday. Whitley said he expects to face hitters when he throws his first spring bullpen tomorrow.
• Because he’s coming back from an injury, Derek Jeter is allowed to report to spring training immediately (you may remember that David Adams and Justin Maxwell came to camp with the pitchers and catchers last year), but Girardi said he doesn’t expect Jeter to report early. “I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he’s doing most of his stuff down at the minor league facility, doing his drills and all his work.”
• Girardi said all of the pitchers and catchers reported to camp on time. No one was late this year. “Not that I know of,” Girardi said.
• Pettitte said he’s well aware that the Yankees might try to protect him, but he wants — even expects — to make 30 starts this season. “I know Joe is going to protect me as best he can as far as keeping my innings limited,” Pettitte said. “But I want to throw 200 innings, make all my starts. Heck, I want to win 20 games, that’s what I want to do.”
• Is this Pettitte’s last year? He said he honestly hasn’t made up his mind. “I can tell you right now, as I sit right here, I hope this is it,” he said. “But having gone through this and done this, I’m not going to shut it down again unless I know for a fact that I’m done with this.”
Associated Press photos
CC Sabathia always seemed to think he could pitch last season. He went on the disabled list twice, and he through some underwhelming stretches, but Sabathia has a bulldog reputation, and he did his best to live up to it. But after offseason elbow surgery to clean up a bone spur from his left elbow, Sabathia said he can easy feel the difference between health and not healthy.
“I definitely feel a relief,” he said. “Just having that range of motion back and not having that ache at the end of my extension. I felt that right away, so hopefully I can just continue to get better and continue to feel less. After last year, going through what I went through pretty much the whole second half, playing catch so far, it feels a lot better.”
Sabathia hasn’t been on a mound yet — “I never throw off the mound until I get down here anyway,” he said — and expects to throw his first fastball/changeup bullpen on Thursday. But he’s been playing catch, and that’s been enough for him to feel the surgical difference.
“He wasn’t 100 percent last year,” Girardi said. “Any time you need surgery at the end of the year, I think it’s fair to say that you weren’t 100 percent. But probably 95 percent of the players that go out there every day aren’t 100 percent. That’s part of the job. You’re going to play with bumps and bruises and injuries that you can still compete with. But I feel better that we were able to address the problem and he’s coming into spring training healthy. He wasn’t overworked last year, so I feel better about it.”
Even today, Sabathia called the elbow issue an “excuse,” while also acknowledging that it was “always there.” Elbow surguries are generally less concerning than shoulder operations, and Sabathia’s was relatively minor, so he’s expected to be fully healthy for this season. Even in a down year, Sabathia reached 200 innings with a 3.38 ERA last season.
“I just want to concentrate on staying healthy,” Sabathia said. “Any kind of numbers I feel will be there if I’m healthy, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
• David Phelps made the big move from the middle lockers — where most of the minor leaguers are assigned — to a locker on the left wall where most of the big league staff is grouped together. Adam Warren also moved to that wall. Phelps has changed uniform numbers to No. 35. He has a locker right next to Andy Pettitte.
• In other locker-assignment news: The short wall just inside the main door has three lockers: Cesar Cabral, Manny Banuelos and Michael Pineda. That must be rehab central.
• Sabathia said he lost about 10 pounds over the winter and is down to 290. He said that’s what he was last spring, and that seems about right. He looks about the same as last spring. “This is the ideal weight,” he said. “I was probably about 300 by the end of last year, so I probably gained 10 pounds. Room service, different stuff. It’s part of the season. I’m fine with that.”
• Any concerns about Mariano Rivera? “I have extreme confidence in Mo, just knowing how hard he works, wanting to be ready and be prepared, be on top of his game,” Sabathia said. “He’s ageless. He can pitch forever. I have a lot of confidence in him coming back and being the same old Mo.”
• Speaking of Rivera, he’s helped raise another $50,000 toward renovations of his church in New Rochelle.
• A few guys threw in the outfield today, but the first full day of pitching workouts is tomorrow. There was no schedule of bullpens posted, but I’m guessing we’ll have those tomorrow morning when the clubhouse opens.
Associated Press photo
David Phelps continued to make a positive impression despite taking this 4-1 loss to the Red Sox. The rookie went a career-high 6 2/3 and gave up just three runs and seven hits. He struck out seven and walked none in what will likely be his final start before CC Sabathia comes off the DL. Joe Girardi said he hopes that will be Friday night in Cleveland.
But Phelps can still be an asset in the bullpen. He’s 3-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 24 outings overall. In his five starts, including two since Sabathia went down with his elbow problem, Phelps is 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA. Someone will have to go to make room for Sabathia, but Phelps is pitching better than Joba Chamberlain and Cody Eppley right now.
“We like what he does,” Girardi said about Phelps. “He’s a guy that’s somewhat of a swing guy for us. If we need him to start, he can start. If we need him to give us an inning in the bullpen, a couple of innings in the bullpen, he can do that. If we need him to give long relief, he can do that.
“He’s a valuable guy on your team because he can do so many different things, and he’s had success in all areas.”
Phelps was done in by an opposite-field, two-run homer in the first by Adrian Gonzalez.
“It was right where we wanted it,” Phelps said. “The ball was down and off the plate. … It’s incredibly frustrating.”
Jon Lester’s inconsistency has been problematic for Boston, but the Yankees managed just five hits off the lefty. He’s still only 7-10 with a 5.03 after back-to-back starts with one run allowed.
“When you look up at the numbers, you kind of step back because you know that’s not the type of pitcher he really is,” said Nick Swisher, who had two of his three hits off Lester. “Tonight you got the best Jon Lester that we’ve seen in a while.”
The Yankees finished 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s hard to win a game when you do that,” Girardi said.
Curtis Granderson seems to be breaking out of his slump, coming through with a homer and two hits for the second consecutive game. Both homers were off left-handers. He has hit 11 of his 32 off lefties.
Derek Jeter lost his 13-game hitting streak. He batted .367 over that stretch.
Robinson Cano is struggling right now. He went hitless for the fourth consecutive game with an at-bat, his worst stretch since a four-game hitless run in 2008. His career high is five straight. That was in 2005.
The Yankees need to come up with an answer for Pedro Ciriaco. He had a four-hit game against them at Fenway last month and he went 4 for 4 in this game. He’s batting .517 against them in seven games, going 15 for 29. He’s batting .276 in 28 games against other teams.
“He’s on fire against us,” Phelps said. “It’s one of those things.”
Sunday night baseball on ESPN with feature a pitching matchup between Hiroki Kuroda, who has been very good, and Josh Beckett, who has not.
The benefit of the doubt has been the only thing working in Freddy Garcia’s favor this season, but even that might have ended after today’s debacle. Manager Joe Girardi said he wanted to “sleep on things” before making a decision, but it’s clear that Garcia’s spot in the rotation is in doubt.
“I can’t tell you exactly what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to come to any rash decisions. Obviously we’re trying to evaluate what’s going on here. It’s frustrating for the player and it’s frustrating for us, but we all know Freddy is better than what he has shown. We saw all last year how he competed, we saw it in spring training. For some reason it’s not coming out (of his hand).”
Although Garca said he physically feels fine, Girardi said it’s entirely possible that the Yankees will send him for medical tests. Garcia’s fastball velocity has dipped, and his split — an effective put-away pitch last season — has been cutting. It was an 0-2 split that Andy Dirks hit for a three-run home run in the first inning.
“I don’t see the crispness in his pitches,” Girardi said. “If we didn’t see it in spring training I’d say, well, maybe it’s not going to be there. But it was there. He threw great in spring training. He threw harder than he did last year. For whatever reason it’s not there right now.”
Garcia seemed baffled, frustrated and uncertain following the loss. He said he’d like to make his next start, but acknowledged that he’s not sure the Yankees will send him back out there.
“I’m just struggling, man,” he said. “For me, it’s really hard. I like to compete and I’m not competing right now. It’s frustrating. … My velocity is down. We work hard last week on a couple of things and things are not going in the right way right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
• For the first time, Girardi called David Phelps a candidate to move into the rotation. “Any time you have a long man, he’s a candidate to be a starter,” Girardi said. “Your long man is someone who is a sixth starter all the time in the bullpen.”
• After three hitless innings today, Phelps ERA is down to 3.57. After two rocky outings, today looked much more like what the Yankees saw out of Phelps in the first two weeks of the season. “My last two outings I was just trying to do a little bit too much instead of staying within myself,” he said. “I kind of got back to that today.”
• The bullpen allowed one run through 7.1 innings. Cody Eppley gave up a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera, but that was the extent of the damage. Despite Garcia’s awful start, the Yankees had a chance because of the pen. “It just speaks volumes to the quality of arms we have in our bullpen, the job that we’ve done all year,” Phelps said. “You saw tonight, we were 10 or 15 feet away from having a tie ballgame. It’s what we’re supposed to do, go in and give our team a chance to win. We’ve been doing a great job of it so far.”
• Those 10 or 15 feet came on Eric Chavez’s fly ball to end the game. A three-run ninth got Chavez to the plate as the tying run with two outs in the ninth. He gave the ball quite a ride, but it was caught short of the wall.
• Nick Swisher homered from both sides of the plate for the 11th time in his career, tying Eddie Murray and Chili Davis for the second-most such games all time behind Mark Teixeira. This was the first time Swisher had homered at home this season. He has six home runs.
• Garcia has allowed nine first-inning runs this season.
• This is the first time in Garcia’s career that he’s gone back-to-back starts without pitching out of the second inning. Last time it happened to a Yankees starter was Chien-Ming Wang in 2009. That’s not exactly the comparision he wants right now.
• That Dirks home run was the first time Garcia had allowed a homer on an 0-2 pitch since Cabrera did it against him in 2009.
• Girardi said the team might call up a reliever before tomorrow’s game. “We’ll figure that out,” Girardi said. “Obviously we could make some adjustments.”
• It’s worth noting that D.J. Mitchell last started on Tuesday, making Sunday his regular day to pitch.
• Speaking of minor league starters: The Yankees confirmed that Andy Pettitte’s next start will be with High-A Tampa, not Double-A Trenton. They don’t want him pitching in the cold.
• Finally, here’s Girardi on whether Garcia is hurt: “It’s something I’ve thought. You see it one start and you don’t think much of it. You see it a couple starts and you start seeing it three starts, you really start to wonder.”
Associated Press photos (the Garcia shot was taken through the mesh at the front of the dugout)
“Same as it’s been, just a few more people” • 04.08.12
After two months in Tampa, I kind of feel like ended this day on a positive note. Thankfully, David Phelps can help with that.
After he’d gotten loose in the bullpen, been called into the game, thrown his warmup pitches on the mound and let Russell Martin take one practice throw to second base, Phelps walked to the back of the mound to get ready for his first big league appearance. It was Derek Jeter who stopped him and jogged over for a few quick words.
“Same as it’s been,” Jeter told him. “Just a few more people.”
Phelps major league debut was a short one – a strikeout and a groundball to second – but it was a good one. In a weekend full of negatives for the Yankees, Phelps provided a positive moment.
“This game is all about first impressions,” he said. “So you want to go out there and do the best you can, the first time out especially.”
“The kid came in and threw strikes with all his pitches,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s not a situation he’s used to coming into, he’s used to being a starter and he came in and did a nice job.”
In the past three weeks – less than that, actually — Phelps has become a father for the first time, made his first big league roster and made his big league debut. His parents, brother, wife and newborn daughter were all in the stands today. His wife, Maria, is flying home to Pittsburgh tomorrow and would have missed his debut if it hadn’t happened tonight.
“They’ve been here all three days, hoping I’d pitch,” Phelps said. “I was really hoping I would get in these three games because she really didn’t want to miss it. To have it on Easter, you can’t ask for anything more.”
Associated Press photo
At his best, Ivan Nova was unhitable today, and that’s what he and the Yankees seemed to take out of this outing.
“The command that I had — my fastball, my curveball, slider, especially the changeup today — was unbelievable,” Nova said. “Every time, here in spring training, when you’re trying to work on something, and you have a good day like today – everything was working – you’ve got to take it. You’ve got to be positive on that.”
Nova retired the first 12 batters he faced, then he closed his outing with a 1-2-3 seventh inning. He needed just 76 pitches, 58 strikes, to get through seven. In the middle, there was a two-run home run in the fifth inning and a two-run single in the sixth, but the Yankees came away yet again impressed by an outing that was better than the final pitching line might suggest. Nova’s had a couple of those this spring.
“Seven innings, five of them were really, really excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “He had the two that he struggled a little bit, but I was happy with what he did.”
• Not too far away in Clearwater, Hiroki Kuroda also finished with a pretty good game. He went 5.2 innings allowing one run on six hits. Kuroda got all the way up to 89 pitches in only his fourth start. Nova was making his fifth start and said he expects to start two more before breaking camp.
• The Yankees starters have performed well since Andy Pettitte signed, but Nova said that’s more about time than timing. “I think right now, everybody is in better shape than two weeks ago,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of good results. Everybody is going to pitch good because everybody is feeling better. Everybody has more command, and I know for sure that pitches are working better than two weeks ago. For me, I expect the guys to pitch well too. I know it’s a competition, but you need not one man, I need my teammates to pitch good and have a good spring.”
• Derek Jeter went 1-for-2 in his return to the lineup. He had a first-inning single and grounded into a double play in the third inning. “I said, ‘You were actually pretty smart today,'” Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t try to kill himself running to first, which was smart.”
• Girardi said there were no other injury updates. He said after the game that he still had not heard any results from MRI and CT scan on Joba Chamberlain’s dislocated ankle.
• Jeter on Chamberlain’s injury: “You feel extremely bad for him. He’s worked hard to get his arm back in shape. It seemed as though he was ahead of schedule on that, and that’s because he worked extremely hard at it. Then to have something like this, a fluke accident, you feel extremely bad for him.”
• Mariano Rivera pitched another hitless inning and has yet to allow a hit in five outings this spring. Rafael Soriano also pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen today.
• New father David Phelps pitched in relief of Kuroda in Clearwater and 3.1 innings allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.
• Eduardo Nunez had three hits agianst the Twins today, and Robinson Cano had three hits against the Phillies. … Francisco Cervelli had two hits to raise his average to .214. … Ramiro Pena was 1-for-1 with a solo homer today. … Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, Eric Chavez, Brandon Laird, Chris Dickersona and Dewayne Wise had one hit appiece. … Mason Williams also singled today. He’s 2-for-2 in his pair of appearances in big league camp.
• Doug Bernier had another two-hit game in another start at shortstop. It’s still hard to imagine him making this team, but he’s really had a terrific spring. His batting average is up to .385.
• Speaking of good springs with no obvious roster spot: Justin Maxwell was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. His average is up to .444 this spring.
• Despite Bobby Valentine’s criticism, Girardi offered no apologies for not going into extra innings yesterday. “I’m going to worry about our guys,” Girardi said. Apparently much of Valentine’s criticism was based on the fact he had a pitcher — Clayton Mortensen — who he wanted to get in the game. Girardi said he would have been fine with playing just the top of the 10th if Valentine had asked. “That would have been acceptable to me,” Girardi said. “But there was no communication, and usually there is. And it’s not like this is something new. There’s a lot of tied ballgames in spring training that end in the ninth inning.”
• Mortensen, by the way, was optioned out of big league camp today.
Associated Press photos