David Phelps, a player we have covered on YESNetwork.com quite a bit on our Minor League Monthly program, is making a wonderful impression at the Major League level. Even in the 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Angels on Saturday afternoon, Phelps appearance was the lone bright spot for the Yankees.
The last couple of months have truly been a whirlwind of emotion for the starter-turned-rookie long reliever. The St. Louis native and former Notre Dame standout as a child, was sought out by Cardinal Dolan at the Welcome Home dinner, and has impressed everyone including his manager in each of his first three outings.
“The situations we put him in, he hasn't been phased and he's throwing strikes, quality strikes,” Girardi said after the loss. "We talk about when you have a young guy and you bring him in to start an inning, especially when he's a long reliever. I think he's pitched in three games and only one time has he started an inning and today the first hitter you see is Albert Pujols. He's made quality pitches and with four different pitches, too. Fastball, curveball, slider and change, so that's what's impressed me the most.”
Speaking of Albert Pujols, Phelps being a St. Louis native, came into Saturday's game after a three-run homer by Howie Kendrick with the daunting task of facing one of his favorite players growing up.
“I've been rooting for him my whole life being from St. Louis,” Phelps said. “He's intimidating. You've got such a small margin of error. You've got to bear down and make good pitches against him.”
Phelps was successful in his task getting Pujols to line out, ultimately stopping the bleeding against the league's best hitter.
Once he got out of the forth inning, Phelps gave something to the Yankees that starter Phil Hughes was unable to achieve today, and that's length. He pitched 5.1 innings, allowing one hit, a home run to Vernon Wells, while walking two and striking out four. Phelps exited with two outs in the ninth successfully saving a bullpen, which once again may be needed in the rubber game against the Angels on Sunday night.
The Vernon Wells home run was not only the one hit he gave up Saturday, but it is the only hit he has given up all season in his three appearances and 8.1 innings pitched.
Phelps also was very economical with his 78 pitches and his very aggressive style. So far that has been a key approach for him.
“Just going out there and trying to throw strikes and trying to be aggressive,” Phelps said. “I was talking to Larry (Rothschild) after the game and I said, you know that's what you have to do. You have to just keep pounding the zone, going out there being aggressive and not trying to pick too much.”
What's even more impressive about Phelps is that in just his first series at Yankee Stadium, he's already saying the right things. When asked about getting a standing ovation from the crowd after exiting in the ninth, Phelps intelligently replied, “It's was awesome. We have the best fans in baseball.”