October 9 – Happy Birthday David Phelps
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the surprise Yankee rookie of the year during the 2012 regular season. Born in St. Louis on this date in 1986, Phelps played his college ball at Notre Dame until his junior year, when he was selected by New York in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. He then pitched well at every rung of the Yankees’ minor league ladder until injuring his shoulder in 2011 while pitching for Triple A Scranton.
I confess I had never paid any attention to Phelps until the end of New York’s 2012 spring training season, when it became clear he was heading north with the team. He had out-pitched the Yankees’ more highly touted “”Killer B” duo of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and with newcomer Michael Pineda injured and out for the year and the suddenly un-retired Andy Pettitte, not yet ready to go, Phelps got the roster slot.
Manager Joe Girardi pitched him exclusively out of the bullpen during the first month of the 2012 season. He caused a bit of a stir by retiring the first 12 big league hitters he faced. When Freddie Garcia struggled early, Phelps took his spot in the rotation. He made two decent starts but was then sent back to the bullpen when Pettitte was finally ready to go in mid May. Then Ivan Nova went on the DL and Phelps was again switched from reliever to starter and remained in the rotation for most of the rest of the season.
When all was said and done, Phelps went 4-4 during his rookie year, appearing in 33 games, 11 as a starter. He posted a solid 3.34 ERA with 96 Ks and just 39 BBs in 99 innings. He has good command of all his pitches and doesn’t seem to get too flustered when he’s dealing with runners in scoring position. Unless the Yankees have some trade or free agent pitching acquisition plans in mind for the offseason, Phelps will most likely battle the suddenly struggling Nova for the fifth spot in the Yankees’ 2013 rotation.