It was only a matter of time. Given the early season struggles that New York Yankees starters Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia have gone through in 2012, manager Joe Girardi had no choice but to make a change in an effort to shore up the rotation. With Andy Pettitte still a couple of weeks away from taking the mound at Yankee stadium, and with Garcia seemingly unable to get past the second inning, Girardi made the decision to replace the aging starter with 25-year-old David Phelps.
Following a stellar spring training in which he threw 17 1/3 innings for a 2.08 ERA, Phelps made the New York Yankees club and has been used as a long-reliever. To date, he has pitched 17-plus innings and holds a 3.57 ERA with 14 strikeouts – including a three inning performance against the Tigers in which he walked one and yielded no hits to that powerful lineup.
The question now is whether Phelps is “the answer” to the New York Yankees inconsistency in the starting pitching?
By putting him in the rotation, they are thrusting high expectations upon the young hurler who is only in his first season at the major league level. Immediately the media will be focused on whether this move by the Yankees is warranted, and this week’s start will be the most important of David Phelps developing career.
Unfortunately, Joe Girardi really had no other options. He couldn’t keep running out an aging pitcher whose velocity has suddenly abandoned him and who has not made it to the sixth inning in any start this season. The much-heralded New York Yankees pitching depth has quickly dissolved with the injury to Michael Pineda, the slow “comeback” of Pettitte, and the disappointments in Hughes and Garcia. At Scranton, the promising duo of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos has not given management any reason to even think of calling them up as Betances currently holds a 7.35 ERA and Banuelos is on the disabled list. In other words, the Yankee manager had no where else to turn.
This isn’t to say that David Phelps won’t succeed as a starter. As noted, he has pitched well in the long relief spot, and when he has run into trouble, he has shown great maturity in not getting “rattled”. While his fastball isn’t anything more than average, he has demonstrated the ability to get the outs when needed – as evidenced in his impressive 1.075 WHIP this season.
New York Yankees fans can only hope that their newest starter can translate his success in long relief to even greater accomplishments in the rotation. If he can, it will restore some of the depth the organization had hoped for prior to opening day, and help to ease the pains of early season failures.