Freddy Garcia, David Phelps, and the 5th Starter


(Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Later on tonight, Freddy Garcia will make his fourth start since returning to the rotation due to Andy Pettitte‘s injury. He’s had one good start (against the Rays), one really good start (against the Red Sox), and one pretty bad start (against the Angels). Freddy’s been much better than he was in April and I think the best way to describe his recent performance is “serviceable.” Pretty much exactly what the Yankees need him to be while Pettitte is on the shelf.

Meanwhile, David Phelps was scheduled to make his third minor league start since being sent down later this afternoon, but the Yankees recalled him from Triple-A yesterday. He had a nice but pitch count shortened start against the Rays before being sent down nearly two weeks ago, and he’s since thrown a dominant start (in Double-A) and very good start (in Triple-A) in the bush leagues. Over his last 21 innings between the minors and Majors he’s struck out 31 batters. A big league rotation spot opened up with Andy’s injury and you can kinda see that Phelps smells the blood in the water.

It’s not a coincidence that Garcia and Phelps were pitching on the same days and with the same exact schedule. Freddy is the weak link in the rotation at the moment and if the Yankees were to pull the plug anytime soon, Phelps is ready to step right in seamlessly. Garcia hasn’t really done anything to warrant losing his rotation spot unless he tosses up a second straight dud tonight, and even then I think he would get the benefit of the doubt. He built up some goodwill last year and the team sure seems to like his veteran savvy.

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

There is some merit to swapping the two right now, however. For one, it would give the Yankees a chance to evaluate Phelps as a big league starter over an extended period of time. With the 2014 payroll plan looming as well as the free agencies of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, digging up a cheap starter sure would be a big help. Even if he were to flop during an extended rotation audition, there is value in knowing he might not be able to be that cheap fifth starter down the line. There’s also the trade value aspect of it; pitching well would improve Phelps’ value on the market.

Secondly, Garcia pitched pretty well out of the bullpen earlier this season. It was a small sample in low-leverage spots of course, but at least he showed the willingness and ability to change roles. There’s a clear opening in the bullpen for a non-specialist reliever, someone who can throw an inning or two without turning everything into a stressful situation. Perhaps Garcia could be that guy, a 2009 Al Aceves type until Chad Qualls is replaced by whoever. Then again you could say the exact same thing about Phelps. He’s shown what he can do in a relief role already.

There is certainly no urgency to make a change, I’m just thinking out loud more than anything here. It’s very hard to ignore what Phelps has done over the last two or three weeks and as fans we always want to see the young kid over the old veteran with no future with the team. Our prospect crushes must be validated, dammit. The Yankees have a nice comfy lead in the division though, so whatever decision they make isn’t anything that will put a big dent in their playoff chances. I’d rather not see the kid bounce back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, but at least they’re letting Phelps do it in the minors instead of forcing it in the show. That’s where they ran into trouble with Joba Chamberlain. No matter which of these two starts while the other relieves, the Yankees will have a solid fifth starter and a solid multi-inning reliever at their disposal.

Categories : Pitching


  1. jjyank says:

    Good points, Mike. I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t really matter. I’d probably lean towards Phelps to see what he’s got, but I understand going with the veteran savvy for 2012′s purposes. Either way I don’t really have an issue with it, and this is a good problem to have.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:


      I also don’t necessarily think that what happened when Joba came up has anything to do with Phelps here. They are completely different human beings who will respond to adversity differently, nor is there the sense of panic surrounding how Phelps is handled. Yes, it’s frustrating to watch him be stretched out to start, then brought up to sit in the bullpen, etc. I don’t think that who he is as a pitcher will necessarily be effected in the same way we’ve decided Joba Chamberlain’s was.

      Who knows? Maybe Phelps goes back down without even making an appearance and goes right back to starting at AAA.

      • jjyank says:

        Right, maybe Phelps is just up to caddy for Garcia in case he turns in another poor start. Though they probably don’t fly Phelps to Cali just for that.

  2. Eddard says:

    No. It ain’t broke so we don’t need to fix it, same as the LF platoon of Wise, Ibanez, and Jones. Unless Freddy consistently struggles he should stay in the rotation until Andy returns. Why mess with a good thing? The whole pitching staff should have good outings vs the Oakland offense.

    • Knoxvillain says:

      There’s always room for improvement. I think Phelps would be a much better starter than Garcia will be over the long run.

    • gc says:

      It’s called insurance and evaluating the capabilities of your entire roster. Be thankful the team has put itself in a position to be able to see what players like Phelps can offer in the middle of the season. I know you’ve already set aside plans to pick up your playoff tickets and you’ve already hung your 2012 AL East Champion banner, but a lot can happen between now and the end of the regular season. I’d be perfectly fine with seeing what Phelps can do so that if a Freddy Garcia should go down with an injury (which would surprise no one), or Pettitte’s comeback is delayed (which would surprise no one), or Nova or Hughes has a setback (which would surprise no one), we have a more complete understanding of what our in-house options can contribute.

      • Steve (different one) says:

        Isnt it just as likely that Phelps may contribute in the playoffs as a middle reliever? After all, one of the reliever could get hurt just as easily as Nova or Hughes.

        You have just made an equally cogent argument for letting him pitch out of the bullpen, if we are “auditioning” for October.

        • gc says:

          Oh, I’m sure they’ll be evaluating him for both roles, but considering they’ve kept him stretched out in the minors since being sent back down, and keeping him on the same pitch day as Garcia, it tells me they’re more likely still viewing him as primarily a starting pitching option. I could see them using him in either role as the season goes on, however.

    • Tremont says:

      “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a very reactive philosophy. It’s a good way to get stuck.

  3. Dan says:

    With the Yankees likely heading back to the post-season I would look at this decision as trying to see who can provide more in the post-season. Although Garcia has an advantage in his experience and has had more success at the ML level for many years, I would like to see the Yankees give Phelps a chance and if he can succeed then it gives them a deeper playoff roster. I am not saying he would get a start, but if Hughes or Nova go down with an injury and Pettitte doesn’t come back there is a chance the Yankees might need either Phelps or Garcia to start in the post-season and with the big lead in the division now would be a good time to see what he can offer.

  4. Brendan says:

    Freddy brings those sweet sweet veteran presents

  5. CS Yankee says:

    Getting Phelps some innings and stretching him out in the minors was the right call, having him come up and not start is the wrong call, IMHO.

    I have zero problem with staying with Freddy or starting Phelps tonight. I do think having Phelps back up without starting is jerking him around much worse than Joba was; as that at least smelled like a plan.

    However, they won’t decide his fate, either way, regardless of how he pitches during this promotion. They tend to give quite a bit more rope than that (Hughes, Nova, etc) these days. If they did those knee jerk reactions, Mitchell & Warren would be throwing in Pittsburgh and we would have an eigth outfielder.

  6. Vinnie Gagliano says:

    I love Phelps, I think he can be a starter in our rotation for years to come.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I hope so too.

      I also think folks are confusing his benefit to the team in the long term with his relative benefit (to Freddy) to the team for the next six weeks.

  7. Ethan says:

    Completely unrelated to the article but the picture reminded me. What’s the necklace that Phelps is wearing in that pic? I see tons of big leaguers wearing it and I’ve always wondered.

  8. blake says:

    pretty sweet circle change action shot of Phelps there

  9. TLVP says:

    I would guess that Garcia will start tonight but that he’ll be on a very short leash.

  10. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    Phelps gets called up just in time to collect some of that sweet, sweet per diem money…

  11. m1kew says:

    This might be the perfect time to offer Garcia to KC. I am not suggesting a top 10 prospect but maybe one in the next ten. KC has a deep and talented farm system, somewhat diminshed by promotions, but could benefit by having a low cost “veteran presence”.

  12. Yank the Frank says:

    I’m vacationing in San Francisco going to the game tonight in Oakland. With the way the weather has been, there is no way Freddy will be sweating.

  13. kenthadley says:

    Ten game lead…give the kid a few shots….Garcia will be in the pen for the playoffs, anyway. If the kid looks good, you have another starter for next year that saves money.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      All of this still applies whether he starts now or not.



      Those two spots could be used on:

      - Re-signing either/both of Andy/Kuroda
      - A rehabbed and effective Michael Pineda
      - A trade or FA signing from outside the organization
      - David Phelps
      - Other pitchers currently in the MiLB system

      I like Phelps. I want him to succeed. A lot has to go well beyond the next six weeks for him to be in rotation in the long-term.

      • yooboo says:

        Pettitte has been on DL lately when he was with Yanks. 3 years in row or something. I hope he can be brought back for same price and incentive. However, Garcia’s 6m can go to Pettitte. For 6m, Pettitte is guaranteed on the roster as either a starter or a reliever.

        I welcome Kuroda. Kuroda could earn up to 12-14m. Pettitte’s old contract and Jones’ 2m will cover his upper part on contract.

        For 500k extra, it may split to Ibanez(from 1.1 to 1.3) and Chavez (from 900k to 1.1m)

        That is without Swisher at RF and Soriano’ declining his option. Despite few arb-eligiblity players and few veterans’ contracts increase, I think it is doable.

      • Dan says:

        I agree with everything you said, but one point that I think you are not factoring in is that Phelps success over the next six weeks could influence the roster outside of their pitching. If Phelps pitches well, it could give the Yankees the ability to trade one of Phelps, Hughes, Nova, or Banuelos, in order to acquire an outfielder in case they lose Swisher to free agency (which is definitely possible if the Yankees are serious about getting under the luxury tax by 2014). Who they would trade would obviously depend on the caliber of player they are getting back, but if Kuroda or Pettitte come back and Pineda returns it would probably make it easier to deal from their depth especially with Mitchell and Warren still at AAA.

        • mike says:

          yankee front office is not trading hughes or nova for any outfielder!! not going to happen!! Especially Nova who they have salary control over for another 4 years.

          • yooboo says:

            After successfully signing Kuroda and Pettitte back and Pineda being 100 percent healthy, what do we do with either Nova or Hughes?

            • LiterallyFigurative says:

              Why trade Nova though? He’s going to be relatively cheap and he’s still under your control. Hughes makes more sense as he’s FA after 2013. If he’s good, he’ll be expensive, if he’s bad he’s gone, if he’s mediocre he’s probably gone. Trade him in the offseason. You could get a decent prospect, particularly in this era of the second wild card and more teams in contention.

              Pettitte/Kuroda (not sure about both of them)
              Man Ban (to start the season. Pineda replaces him in May (unless Man Ban is killing it, then we can wait))

              • yooboo says:

                Depending on what return that will be more attractive to Yanks.

                Nova for J. Upton package.

                Hughes for Headley package.

                I go with the Hughes package but Yanks have explored Upton not Headley as new RF.

                Problem is Nova will offer more value than Hughes for another team because of more years under control.

              • Dan says:

                I agree Hughes should be the first one to be traded, but it will depend on the level of prospect, which is why I said any of the Yankee young pitchers could be on the block. After last season I doubt anyone saw Pineda getting traded, Nova could be moved if the Yankees can get back a young cost-controlled outfielder since that is something they lack at the upper levels in their system and Swisher and Granderson are becoming free agents in the next two years.

          • Dan says:

            I think many people would have said the same thing about Montero last off-season. Trading one of them might bring back a top outfielder that they will have control of for a number of years, and if they can build a package around one of them for a player like Justin Upton, Heyward, Morrison, Stanton, Reddick, all of which could replace Swisher next season. I agree about not trading Nova, but I wouldn’t call him untouchable. It’s unlikely they pull off two straight years of trading young cost-controlled players with high potential.

  14. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    I like Freddie and Phelps. I prefer Phelps in the rotation and Freddie in the bullpen. Phelps has value to be determined for the team or trade market. I hope for the team. He looks like a very good back of the rotation starter. Freddie has a one year contract. The Yanks are not looking past October with Freddie.

  15. m1kew says:

    To your first question I offer Buster Olney:


    The Royals’ problem, of course, is their starting pitching is horrendous, with the third-worst ERA in the majors; Ned Yost’s starting pitchers have averaged barely more than five innings per outing. You can have a great, young, dynamic lineup, and it would still be like building a house on quicksand. The composition of the rest of the team really won’t matter unless the Royals’ starting pitching gets better.

    The Royals have indicated to other teams they believe they are about two years away from being serious contenders — two years to put together a credible rotation.

    So as the trade deadline nears, the Royals will be perusing the market, looking for rotation pieces that can be installed now but will have more practical value to them in 2013 and/or 2014.

    To your second question I think the Yankees have talent comparable to what Garcia can give them and with a big lead and Pettitte (hopefully) back in September I just feel the Yankees can afford to move Garcia and maybe get a player where KC has great depth.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      They just brought back JASON F’ING KENDALL, so they’ll take anyone.

      Billy Butler for RAMON ORTIZ. Keep Freddy.

    • jjyank says:

      Freddy is a FA after the season and probably doesn’t have many seasons left in him. Again, why would they give up anything of value? If KC wanted, they could just sign Freddy in the offseason. They’re not trading for a pending free agent if it requires even remote, longshot prospect value.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        They want to position themselves as the trading deadline for that all-important “Most Mediocre” award which guarantees them the “Money in the Bank” briefcase which they, then, can cash in right after Game 7 of the WS.

    • Kosmo says:

      I think KC could be a good match with just about any team willing to trade quality pitching for a position player, I just don´t think Garcia would net anyone of great value.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Wierd comment, Onley is basically making the opposite argument of what you seem to think. Garcia is a FA this winter.

      • Kosmo says:

        are you referring to my comment? If KC wants young quality pitching then they´ll have to trade a position player not named jeff Francouer to obtain said pitching or go after FA SP and in that instance will more than likely over pay to lure FA SP to KC. I know Garcia is a FA to be. garcia is not worth much on the trade market.

        • Steve (different one) says:

          I am not. Assume we are both on the mobile site and no one knows who they are talking to, lol.

          Was responding to the original comment, which seems to imply at the end that the Royals would want Garcia.

  16. novymir says:

    If Phelps went 4-10 in the starting rotation, he would be dealt after the year. He’s 25. His prospect status is expiring soon.

  17. Jonathan says:

    I’m torn. Rationally I say we see what Phelps can do (this reminds me of 2007 Ian Kennedy) and audition him for a trade or a larger role. With Betances/Banuelos not looking like rotation candidates for a little while, if at all, adding him to Nova would help the payroll situation or help us add something we need. Now obviously Phelps isn’t bringing Justin Upton or Stanton in but he could be part of the package. He seems to bring a lot of heart to the mound and isn’t afraid to challenge hitters. With a pretty good fastball and location it doesn’t take much else to turn into a mid-rotation starter.

    On the other hand, I feel we kind of owe Freddy. He was invaluable last year to us and re-upped for below his value and for only one year and we promptly went out and re-signed Andy and signed/traded for Kuroda/Pineda. Now all of those moves should have been made (along with the initial signing of Freddy) but that sucks to do a great job on a MiLB deal then sign for less years and money than you could get only to have your rotation spot taken away after you were the #2 starter in the playoffs. Then he was so awful to start the year (perhaps the long season wore on him and he wasn’t ready to start the season or his shoulder acted up; we’ll never know) he had to be yanked. Then he was barely on the team. I’m sure he would have been sent to AAA had it been possible. But he stuck it out and never really bitched and did his job well. Now he’s done nothing to lose his job and I feel like we owe it to him to let him pitch. He’s perfectly suited to pitch in Oakland by the way so I expect good things. Perhaps the decision will be made for us if he bombs vs the A’s but it’s definitely interesting. If he pitches like last year for the rest of Andy’s DL stint and Kuroda/Hughes/Nova pitch as well as they’ve been pitching for the last 3 months or so I dunno how you tell 2-3 of those guys they don’t get a playoff start.

    Seriously, if Andy was back healthy today and Nova/Hughes/Kuroda were pitching as well as they have been, who gets the axe? Obviously CC and Andy are in the playoff rotation. I have to assume Kuroda is in too. So if Hughes/Nova pitch the rest of the way like they’ve been since they turn it around and they end up with mid 3 ERA’s…who’s the 4th starter? Do you send Hughes to the pen because in short bursts of his fastball at 95+ and that newly reacquired curve he’ll be dominant? How often will he be used if Joba comes back the same and/or Mo miraculously heals himself? I’m pretty sure this will all settle itself out if Hughes loses the curveball again (I can’t imagine how good he’d be if he had the 2009 cutter to go along with the curve and ok change and had 3 good pitches), Nova pitches like he did the last time out and keeps leaving the ball up and out over the plate, or Andy doesn’t make it back but we’re all hoping they all work out. And furthermore, if Kuroda/Andy both want to come back and Hughes and Nova continue this run of good-great pitching do we bring everyone back? I look forward to hoping to have the problem of CC, a healthy Pineda and the Kuroda/Andy/Hughes/Nova of late. If the offense was playing up to it’s full potential and we had Gardner/Mo back we’d win 115 games this year. But I’m still happy with what we have. It also makes me with Kuroda would have just freaking accepted the trade to us long ago since he seems to really enjoy New York and the team and can handle the AL East.

    More than anything I want Mo to make it back almost as much for history as for what he brings performance wise. It would be weird to get him his 6th ring with him not throwing a single pitch. I want the whole team to swarm him on the mound after a triumphant comeback from the ACL after striking out Bryce Harper or getting a shattered bat little comebacker that he flips to Tex. I still have images of Tex/ARod’s giddy little hug/dance in 2009. If he doesn’t pitch it’ll be like Jorge’s 1st ring.

    • billbybob says:

      I’ll need the cliffnotes for this comment…

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I don’t think the team necessarily “owes Freddy,” or at least it shouldn’t be justification for keeping him in the rotation. If he remains in the rotation, it should be because he continues to give the team a chance to win his starts when he’s filling in. Period.

    • CS Yankee says:

      In book one…since phelps was yanked back up he should get a start.

      In book two…Freddy gets a ring.

      In book three…too much here, but don’t count on pineda doesn’t shit for his career. I make that same trade, but let’s try the “under promise, over achieve” deal with him.

      In your finale…Mo needs to be back for 2013 & 2014. If this makes him pitch for two more (since he’s bored already), than it was a blessing.

  18. RetroRob says:

    I was supportive of Freddy in the rotation and Phelps remaining stretched out in the minors. It gives the Yankees the most rotation depth.

    I’m not as supportive of Phelps languishing out in the pen. The player in the long-man role can go a week to ten days between appearances, and the way the Yankees starters are clicking along right now, even when he does appear it’s for an inning. In the eighteen or so days since DJ Mitchell was recalled, he pitched all of two innings. Part of that maybe trust based and Phelps will get used a little more, but for the most part looking at how infrequently Noesi, Phelps, Garcia and Mitchell were used in that role going back to last year, I don’t there’s enough work.

    With Phelps and Garcia now both on the team, I’d rather they give Phelps the starts.

    • The Ghost of Joe Dugan says:

      Exactly, in order to develop starting pitching you have to let the kids have their shot. Continuing to run Freddy out there adds nothing special to the current Yankees and delays development of Phelps’ potential. If the Yankees had never given Nova a chance we’d still be talking about him as a piece in a deal for a middle reliever.
      Let’s see what the kid has, we might end up pleasantly surprised. If not you throw Freddy back into the rotation and you’re no worse off.

  19. Robert says:

    Give Phelps the start.Guys like Garcia are a dime a dozen. Petitte is too injury prone and Kuroda will not be worth another years salery.We must get younger now!!!

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Yes, veterans with post-season experience who know what they’re doing on the mound grow on trees, don’t they?

      • Tremont says:

        Is there any evidence to suggest that veterans and players with post-season experience perform any better than comparably productive youngsters and players without postseason experience?

    • CS Yankee says:

      Kuroda is a beast, he must be resigned for 2013.

      Pettitte will also be back in 2013.

      In 2013, would like to see something like;
      1) CC
      2) Kuroda
      3) Nova
      4) Hughes/Phelps
      5) Pettitte/ManBan

      If Hamels or Greinke arrive (very doubtful), trade Hughes & Phelps to KC and get either their Catcher of LF’er.

      • RetroRob says:

        I don’t see the Royals trading Perez, although I’d love to have him. I’ll drive both Hughes and Phelps to KC this offseason and pick up Perez if they would make that deal.

        I think ManBan would be a good shadow for Pettitte in 2013. While neither of Pettitte’s injuries in 2010 and 2012 are considered age-related (especially the broken bone), it can’t be ignored that he’s 40 and his last full, healthy season goes back to 2009. I want him to return, but planning on more than 150 innings from him is a stretch.

        There’s also Pineda in the equation. For planning purposes, they need to build their 2013 rotation on the assumption he won’t pitch and go from there. I believe he will pitch and give him a resonable chance of being effective eventually, but it may take all of 2013 for him to get back to where he once was. The Yankees probably should have him start his 2013 season in the the minors to push out his arbitration and free-agency period by another year.

  20. LiterallyFigurative says:

    I don’t understand the move at all. Why get Phelps stretched out just to come back and be a long man? I hate using young guys in that role to begin with, but it’s even worse to yo-yo them back and forth. Mitchell has barely pitched. Long men, 25th player-types get little to no burn on good teams, as they rarely get blown out to the point where you need mop-up work. If you want a long man, use Ramon Ortiz or one of the vets in AAA.

    It would be a different story if they got rid of Qualls and had Phelps be your “We’re still very much in the game, but don’t want to use our main bullpen guys to get us through the 6th and 7th innings” guy.

    • Kosmo says:

      I have the feeling the August 1st trade deadline might factor into current roster moves. I doubt NY plans to jerk Phelps around longterm. The next 10 days or so will help shake things down.

      • LiterallyFigurative says:

        I hope you are right. It’s not a be-all, end-all type of move, but I still don;t like it.

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