First Pitch: Phelps' candidacy

April, 29, 2012
4/29/12
9:00
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There's been a constant in Freddy Garcia's outings this season. And we're not just talking about the ineffective innings tossed by the veteran.

In three of Garcia's first four starts this year, he's been replaced no later than the fifth inning by long reliever David Phelps. In those three games, Phelps has thrown 9 1/3 innings and given up just three earned runs. Garcia, meanwhile, has thrown eight innings and surrendered 14 earned runs in those games.

If you want a point to harp on for Phelps' candidacy in the rotation, there it is. They've pitched in the same games against the same teams three times, and Phelps has been decisively better. Phelps has a 2.89 ERA in those games and Garcia has a 15.75 ERA in those innings. Phelps has also given more length, despite having to come out of the bullpen.

The Yankees have struggled out of the gate and as Garcia has been rocked, the Yankees need to determine if they can keep running him out there. He's killing the bullpen, although Phelps has saved him there, and he puts his teams in holes like he did Saturday when he left with the Tigers up 6-1 in the second inning. There aren't many positives to keeping him in the rotation.

It certainly doesn't help that his long reliever is pitching better than him each time. The Yankees are in the business of winning. They're just 11-9 right now and don't look to be a juggernaut. Their fifth starting spot is a problem and they need to shore up their rotation soon. Right now, their long reliever gives them a better chance to win games and he's proved it.

Just look at the numbers. As the saying goes, the stats don't lie.

UP NOW: Johnette Howard tackled Garcia's struggles and how Pettitte looms in the background. Mike Mazzeo wrote about Garcia's struggles puzzling manager Joe Girardi. I wrote about Phelps' strong showing as well as the comeback that fell just short.

In other news, Pettitte will start Monday for Class A Tampa so he can pitch in better weather conditions, and Detroit's Delmon Young has been placed on the restricted list.

ON DECK: The Yankees will turn to ace CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.27 ERA) to get them on the right foot as he opposes Max Scherzer (1-2, 8.24 ERA0 at 1:05 p.m. in the rubber game of the three-game set. With a win, the Yankees would finish 3-3 in the six games they just played against AL favorites Detroit and Texas.

IN THE HOLE: Andrew Marchand and I will be at the Stadium and have you covered as the Yankees potentially reveal what they will be doing with the last spot in the starting rotation.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: If you had to argue for Phelps to be in the rotation, what would be your case? Let us know in the comments section below.

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .284
HRM. Teixeira 20
RBIJ. Ellsbury 60
RB. Gardner 77
OPSB. Gardner .781
ERAH. Kuroda 3.94
SOM. Tanaka 135