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David Phelps struggles against Braves

Yankees pitcher David Phelps throwing against the Atlanta

Yankees pitcher David Phelps throwing against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning. (Feb. 23, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Coming down the stretch run of a close competition, it wasn't the kind of start David Phelps was looking for.

The 26-year-old righthander, brilliant much of spring training, had his first poor outing Saturday, allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings in the Yankees' 4-0 loss to the Braves.

Earlier in the day, the Yankees dropped a 7-0 decision to the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field.

"Frustrating,'' said Phelps, who entered Saturday 2-1 with a 0.64 ERA in four starts. "All my pitches felt good. Probably the best command-wise and stuff-wise I've felt this spring, but just a little lapse.''

Phelps allowed three runs in the fifth, which featured a two-out walk and a two-run homer by Juan Francisco. "Just a bad pitch,'' he said.

Phelps entered spring training in a competition with Ivan Nova for the fifth spot in the rotation. Both have thrown the ball well and -- with Phil Hughes behind schedule after a back injury -- both still could end up in the rotation early in the season.

Cautious with Jeter

Derek Jeter played a second straight game at shortstop, starting against the Phillies and going 1-for-2 before being removed in the top of the fifth. Joe Girardi said he's in no rush to play Jeter, who had offseason surgery to repair a broken left ankle, for a full game.

"I know he's been cleared by the doctor, but it's something we still have to be cautious about, especially in these early games,'' Girardi said. "I think I'm going to be concerned for a while, just because of what he went through.''

'Rusty' Mo

Mariano Rivera needed 15 pitches to retire the side in order in his first outing March 9 against the Braves, and he followed that by needing nine pitches in a 1-2-3 inning Wednesday against the Phillies.

The 43-year-old closer said he was "rushing'' in Saturday's game against the Phillies when he walked Steven Lerud on six pitches to start the seventh inning. But Rivera got Ben Revere to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, then got Michael Young looking at a 90-mph cutter to end the 17-pitch inning.

"I was kind of rushing today, but everything was good,'' Rivera said.

Of pitching with a man on base, he smiled. "Most of the time it's not going to be like that,'' he said, "so I have to work on it.''

Girardi stood near Jorge Posada, a guest instructor, during the inning. "Me and Jorgie were commenting, you never see [Rivera] throw a ball in the dirt,'' Girardi said. "He's just a little rusty.''

Logan feeling good

Boone Logan, who has yet to appear in a game because of elbow inflammation, threw live BP and hopes his next step is a game. "Arm feels fantastic,'' he said.

The lefthander said that although he does feel some soreness in his arm, it's "normal.'' He said he never feels that soreness while on the mound, adding: "Arm feels like a million dollars when I'm throwing.''

Busy 'off' day

The Yankees are off Monday, but three players have plenty to do. Hughes, in his bid to be ready for the start of the regular season after suffering two bulging discs Feb. 18, will pitch a simulated game at the team's minor-league complex at noon. Andy Pettitte and Rivera are slated to pitch in a minor-league game afterward.

New York Sports