Consider this starter stalled.
With CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the disabled list and long reliever Freddy Garcia back in the rotation, the Yankees on Friday were forced to recall reliever David Phelps, putting a kink in the club's plans to groom him for a regular starting role.
"We were trying to build him back up to be a starter, so we probably could have continued to do that if we hadn't had so many interruptions with our starting rotation," Joe Girardi said before the game. "Right now, we're going to use him as a long man."
Hours after his return, the righthander took over for Adam Warren. He retired four of the first six batters to face him on swinging third strikes, but Phelps eventually sputtered, allowing A.J. Pierzynski's second homer of the game to give the White Sox a 7-6 lead. Alex Rios' two-out RBI single in the sixth made it 8-6 and knocked out Phelps (1-3). He took the loss, allowing two runs, four hits and a walk in 31/3 innings and striking out five.
"[Warren] was going to have a little bit of a short leash, being a rookie starter, so I figured I had a pretty good chance" of pitching, Phelps said. "I didn't pitch spectacularly tonight. I felt like I got behind guys."
A day after his promotion, Ryota Igarashi was sent back down to Triple-A to make room on the roster, a necessary move if the Yankees are going to weather the sudden loss of two-fifths of their starting rotation Wednesday.
The dearth of pitching translated into Warren's rough outing. He allowed six runs and eight hits in 21/3 innings but was taken off the hook when Jayson Nix's two-run double in the fourth tied it at 6. The start underlined the need for Phelps or someone who can fill that role, even if his relief performance didn't quite do the trick.
Phelps shined compared with the rest of the Yankees' pitching Friday (save, perhaps, for outfielder Dewayne Wise, who retired both his batters).
"He looked pretty good to me today," Girardi said of Phelps. "When we sent him down, he just hadn't pitched a lot, and that just wasn't something that we wanted for him. We want him to continue because we believe he's really in our future plans."
Girardi didn't completely rule out using him in a start as soon as Wednesday. "Let me figure out what we're going to do tomorrow and then I'll worry about [after that]," he said.
Phelps has had only two starts in the big leagues, on May 3 and May 9, allowing two earned runs against Kansas City and none against Tampa Bay in a total of 82/3 innings. He was 1-2 with a 2.94 ERA before being sent to Class A Tampa to make room for David Robertson on June 14. He started two games there and was planning to build his pitch count to 75 in his next start.
Phelps certainly will see more action this time, and he said he would be comfortable with starting.
"My last two outings were both starts," Phelps said. "In the beginning of the season, I was throwing three, four, five innings an outing . . . Whatever they need me for. If there's innings to go around, we're going to do our job."