Phelps tuning up for the second half


Plenty could change between now and month’s end. Despite their stated lack of intention, the Yankees could make a play for Cole Hamels. They could look into Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster. But if their behavior at the past few deadlines is any indication, they’ll probably make minor moves at most. That means riding out internal options. David Phelps, then, could play a significant role in the second half.

Sent down in order to stretch back out as a starter, Phelps got recalled a bit prematurely. He was scheduled to throw 50 pitches in a minor league game last Friday, but the Yankees decided they’d rather have him as a caddy for Adam Warren. That proved a prescient move, as the Yankees leaned on Phelps for 3.1 innings. He wasn’t exactly great, allowing two runs, but he did strike out five. It was pretty clear that he was going to take the ball again in five days.

Again on a pitch limit, Phelps tossed 4.1 quality innings against the Rays yesterday, allowing just two hits to go with three walks and eight strikeouts. Chances are he would have pitched considerably deeper if not for the pitch count — hew was at 81 pitches through those 4.1 innings. Next time out, chances are Phelps will be ready to go the distance. As Mike mentioned earlier Phelps will likely get sent down before tomorrow’s game. The All-Star break gives the Yanks a chance to rework the rotation, and also gives Phelps to get a start in the minors. He can likely go 100 pitches, which will take off the reins when he returns to the majors — probably July 17th vs. the Blue Jays, so he can make a start any day from the 9th through the 12th.

If Phelps has any one thing to improve on as he enters the second half in the rotation, it’s his pitch efficiency. He’s been top notch in terms of results, a 3.05 ERA in his 41.1 innings. He’s also been serviceable by peripheral-based stats: 4.38 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, 3.54 SIERA. The problem is that he’s getting himself pulled from games prematurely. In his three starts he’s pitched just 13 innings. Part of that has been based on usage limits, but in some ways it has been based on his own performance. He’s used nearly 20 pitches per inning and 4.4 pitches per batter as a starter. That’s just not going to work if Phelps is going to remain in the rotation.

As a reliever Phelps has been a bit more efficient. He’s used 17 pitches per inning and 3.99 per batter. Those still aren’t great numbers overall, though. Yet if he can get even to that level as a starter, it will be a much-needed improvement for the second half. If Phelps is going to stay in the rotation until Andy Pettitte returns, the Yankees need him to eat at least six innings per start, lest they overtax the bullpen. At 17 pitches per inning he’d be over 100 pitches by the time he finished six. At his current 20 pitches per inning as a starter, he’d be at that threshold after five.

The good news is that this seems to be Phelps’s most significant issue. He has good stuff, and he doesn’t, or at least hasn’t yet, let innings get out of hand. His strikeout rate is well above league average, and his walk rate isn’t quite too high. Those seem like tougher areas on which to improve mid-season. Phelps has this one task in front of him, to put away batters with fewer pitches, and he can get cracking on it in the no-pressure environment of the minors. His success will make the Yankees’ lives much easier as they approach the deadline and home stretch.

Categories : Pitching
  • Rey22

    I’d much rather see Phelps, but isn’t CC taking his spot and Freddy going to continue pitching in Andy’s? How does Phelps fit into the rotation? (Barring further SP injuries)

  • Rich in NJ

    Unless he pitches ineffectively, it makes sense to let Phelps start so they have a better read on him going forward, and make Garcia the long reliever.

    They shouldn’t burn their remaining mL assets on yet another pitcher with so much age in their everyday lineup at key spots, and the need to add a starting catcher at some point

    • Robinson Tilapia

      There’s two ways of looking at it. The first is what you are saying. The second is riding your veterans into the ground until you no longer can. I think there’s much greater long-term benefit to the team in going with the former. If Kuroda and Pettitte do not return (and I know some here think one or both will) then, even with a big/medium splash to fit behind CC, a more experienced Phelps could look awfully nice in the #5 slot next year.

      That being said, I’d understand the short-term depth benefit of going with Garcia and leaving Phelps stretched out in AAA.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

        What happened to Kuroda? I didn’t hear that he was injured.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Nothing happened. My assumption was that he was a one year and done deal.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Ah, you think I lumped him in with Pettitte because of injury. I just put the two guys I find likely not to be back next year together.

            • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

              Oh, you scared me.

              I don’t necessarily think both are one and done though. With the success they’re having, I can see either or both coming back on one year deals.

              • RetroRob

                I agree.

                Based on nothing, but I do not get the impression Pettitte’s decision to return was driven by a desire to scratch a one-year itch. I think in his mind it’s very much an open question. If anything, the decision to spend more time with his family ended up being the one-year itch that was scratched, and he realized he missed the game, and his family enjoyed him being a big league player.

                So while I don’t think Pettitte is comfortable saying he’s planning on playing next year because he wants to get through this year, but my guess is he’ll want to come back in 2013 and give it a full year.

                That said, one of the concerns I had when he was injured was he might look back at his 2010 and 2012 seasons, remembering he missed a couple months recovering from an injury in 2010, and now here he’s back again missing another couple months with an injury in 2012. No player likes to be injured, but it seems to frustrate Pettitte even more than others. If he thinks he’s becoming more injury prone as he gets older, then that alone may push him back into retirement. I do find it interesting he’s spending all his rehab time with the team, which one could take as a signal he’s trying to soak it all in before retiring again. Still, my guess is he’ll come back.

                Kuroda has not track record here, so hard to guess what motivates him. I wouldn’t assume, though, that he’s one-and-done either.

                • Rocky Road Redemption

                  It’s a shame, because he’ll get the reputation of being injury-prone when this year his injury was a freak accident. Could have happened to anybody regardless of age.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        …and, of course, I complete forget about Michael Pineda when writing that.

        • vin

          Nope… name doesn’t ring a bell.

          • LK

            We got him when we dumped the salary of that below-replacement-level catcher we shipped to Seattle.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              How quickly the tide turns…

              • Get Phelps Up

                It seems like just yesterday we traded Mike Piazza and Nolan Ryan for a bucket of game-used baseballs and a 2 week supply of jockstraps.

              • LK

                Just for the record, I was joking and expect Montero to be productive eventually.

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  I know. :)

  • yooboo

    Phelps has problem with economical in pitching so I rather he put up zero in as many innings as he can than forcing him to eat up few innings for bullpen’s sake. Even though when Phelps is clear for 100 pitches, Girardi will remove him earlier rather than let Phelps fight through a late struggle or a collapse in deeper game.

    Right now, I go with Garcia and I think Girardi will too once Sabathia returns. That means we may not see Phelps again until new problem pops up.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      He was reminding me of early Ivan Nova yesteday with the pitch count, but wasn’t really struggling second time around the lineup. Would have been interesting to have him face those hitters a third time.

      Seems like the kind of thing he’ll get right with more experience and confidence at the MLB level.

      • yooboo

        If Yanks are committing to Phelps as a full time starter for 2nd half then I am all for it. However, you know how Girardi is and any Yankees’ funny result that may make Phelps expendable.

        4 starters stay strong and offense keeps scoring will protect Phelps. How guarantee will it be. lol

        • Robinson Tilapia

          OK, if the decision was that Garcia remains as starter, with Phelps stretched out in AAA and ready to roll, from a short-term depth perspective, would that be a “bad” decision? I’d choose what I said above and continue Phelps’s 2013 audition, but both options have validity to them.

          • yooboo

            his learning process will merely postpone to next year.

            However, it wont be a bad decision as long as he is not used as a reliever until September.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    IMHO, Phelps should take Andy’s spot until he comes back into the rotation. Garcia is long relief or fill in rotation. If this is the decision that Cashman and Girardi make then Phelps will learn pitch efficiency with the confidence to be aggressive in the zone.

    Phelps has the tools and is the future not Freddie. Sometimes you just have to hold your breath and let the kids play.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Phelps needs a little more time, a little more confidence and experience. It will come. Trading zeros with Price at Tampa after 2 losses was impressive. The margin for error was minimal and he was also given the rookie squeeze on several strikes by the ump. He has excellent mechanics and seems poised. He will become more economical with his pitches. Like him alot.

  • Countryclub

    They’ll give Garcia Andy’s spot until he fails. They should keep phelps stretched out in minors in case Garcia bombs or someone else gets hurt. Leave Mitchell in the long man role.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      ….but what about Andy Garcia’s spot?

      • yooboo

        Godfather IV needs to be written to get that point.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          In other news, world, please do not give us “Godfather IV.”

          • RetroRob

            I have seen Godfather III, but I’ve never seen the Godfather, or Godfather II.

  • Greg

    remember when we had a plethora of potential starters – 3 B’s, Warren, Phelps, Mitchell, Stoneburner, Marshall, Pineda, Campos, Mitchell, etc. etc. Now maybe Phelps is the only one. Question – if you could trade for Hamels today, would you let the Phillies pick any 5 of those guys?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Holy god you are supremely overexaggerating here. Perhaps Betances is on an irreversible course, and I am not quite sure Stoneburner ever belonged in that conversation, but every one of those guys, still with the organization, could still be a potential starter.

      I would not trade five pitchers for Coal Hammmmels unless I got to choose the five pitchers myself.

      • jjyank

        Campos shouldn’t be there either, he’s years away. Warren and Mitchell are still there. one bad debut by Warren doesn’t change much.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          True dat on Campos.

    • Get Phelps Up

      Why would the Phillies trade Hamels for pitching?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I will trade five pitchers from our system for Cole Hamels. Their names are Scottie Allen, Sean Black, John Maine and, because I’m generous, Jose Ramirez and Mikey O’Brien.

        • Get Phelps Up

          Haha why not be even more generous and throw in Wise?

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Because Kevin Long is about to turn him into Hank Aaron.

      • RetroRob

        If the Phillies have determined Hamels is gone (something I think they have determined), then they’ll trade him for the best package of young talent, which certainly would include pitching.

        He’d be a three-month rental. I wouldn’t strip the farm system for him.

    • RetroRob

      Nothing’s changed with Phelps, Mitchell and Warren. Stoneburner, Marshall and Campos were never part of this discussion. Betances has flamed, Banuelos remains what he was, but obviously set back.

      In other words, normal baseball.

  • Darren

    Anyone read Reggie’s comments? He is still stirring that drink, that’s for sure.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      He’s my all time favorite Yankee but he should keep his mouth shut about Arod .

      Had he played in that era when I believe far more players than we’ll ever know used PEDs, he very well might have also.

  • yooboo

    Martin should be on DL and Yanks bring Cervelli back. Martin could pick up a slack after he has a plenty of rest.

    • yooboo

      apologies… this post should be in the previous article about catching situation. Dunno why it happened here.

  • Fin

    I wouuld love for the Yankees to give Phelps the spot until Andy gets back. I just dont think its going to happen, as long as Freddy is effective, they will give him the job. Does anyone on here really think they are going to give the rookie the nod over Freddie? THe Yankees rarely choose the young guys over the vets, I dont really see that changing in this case. No matter who starts Freddie or Phelps, I dont think it will make much of a difference but it would be more fun to see Phelps in the rotation. Having Hughes, Nova and Phelps in the rotation would be nice to see.

    It seems to me that if the Yankees were to make a significant move before the deadline, that Phelps could be a piece. They dont have alot of major league ready players in the minors, Phelps could fill that need in a trade.

    • RetroRob

      Considering their rotation this year was 3/5ths home grown, from Pettitte, to Nova to Hughes, well it does appear at times they somehow let their home-grown pitchers in.

      Many Yankee fans wanted Garcia straight cut as recently as a week ago because, because, well there was really no good reason beyond the belief that the team would be better off calling up one of the kids. The problem with that approach is once the veteran is cut he’s not coming back, the team is still paying his salary, and if one of the kids explodes, like Warren, the team has few options. Having depth is good and necessary. If Garcia can hold the spot down all well and fine. If not, move on to Phelps.

      I’ve always been a Phelps fan in that I believed he can help the big club. He has been helping the big club. Yet I really don’t know if he can hold down one of the five-man rotation slots in the AL East.