Just when we thought that Michael Pineda had it all locked up, David Phelps (again) continued his refusal to concede in the competition for the fifth spot in the Yankees’ rotation Thursday, pitching six solid innings against the Red Sox, en route to a 3-2 Yankees win. While it’s looking more and more likely that Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are out of the running for the job, Phelps remains the lone challenger to Pineda.
Time and time again this spring, just when it looked like the momentum had shifted in Pineda’s favor for good, Phelps has come roaring back to even the score. While Pineda remains the favorite, Phelps has given him a run for his money. It’s a good problem to have for Joe Girardi, who will be making the final decision. When asked about it after Thursday’s game, Phelps said he didn’t think about how it was his last chance to impress Girardi. “Yeah, now that you mention it,” Phelps said. “We’ll see what he has to say.”
What Girardi said was basically the same as what he’s said all spring. That he (Phelps) hasn’t made it any easier of a decision for him. “Six innings, faces a tough lineup tonight,” Girardi said. “I thought he did a good job.” Before the game Thursday, Girardi announced that Michael Pineda will start Sunday, in what will most likely be his last opportunity as well to convince Girardi that he deserves the spot. Girardi also said he could make his final decision on the job Sunday.
After being acquired by the Yankees from the Mariners more than two years ago, Pineda has yet to throw a regular season pitch for the Bombers, due to an anterior labral tear he suffered in his pitching shoulder, shortly after he was acquired by the Yankees. He underwent arthroscopic surgery shortly thereafter, and has been working his way back to the big leagues ever since.
Phelps has repeatedly said that he doesn’t care which role he serves with the Yankees, as long as he’s on the pitching staff. Girardi also had said earlier Thursday, that the team was weighing Phelps’ bullpen experience in his final decision. Pineda is “throwing the ball really well right now and, as a staff, we all are,” Phelps said. “I just want to be part of it.” He sure has thrown the ball well. Pineda’s stellar line this spring: 9IP, 8H, 0R, 0ER, 0HR, 1BB, 14K. Phelps on the other hand, has put up some pretty good ones of his own: 19.2 IP, 19H, 6R, 6ER, 2HR, 4BB, 14 K, 2.75 ERA. It’s anyone’s job at this point, and we’ll all be watching and listening very closely for a possible decision from Girardi come Sunday.