At halfway point, Yankees have a problem

NEW YORK -- The Yankees will play Game 81 on Monday evening, marking the halfway point of the 2014 regular season.

David Phelps (3-4, 4.35 ERA) will be on the mound, making his 11th start since joining the rotation on May 5.

That wasn't the plan for Phelps, who began the season in the bullpen, with nine relief appearances in April. But Michael Pineda's 10-game suspension and subsequent DL stint left the Yankees in need of an extra starter.

As we all know, the Yankees ended up needing three extra starters during the first half of the year, thanks to injuries to Pineda, Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia. Vidal Nuno (2-4, 5.42) was also moved from the pen to the rotation, and Chase Whitley (3-2, 4.70) was called up from Triple-A.

Whitley has struggled in his previous two starts, including Sunday night's 8-5 loss to the Red Sox. But the Yankees can hardly complain about what they've gotten from this trio, who had a combined 26 major league starts prior to this season.

The Yanks have won nearly half (15) of the 32 games Phelps, Nuno and Whitley have started. And the team's ERA entering Sunday's game, 3.97, placed them smack in the middle of the American League -- eighth out of 15 teams.

The biggest problem with this team is the lineup -- more specifically, its lack of production. And you can't pin the blame on injuries here, because the Yankees haven't lost any of their top hitters for a prolonged stretch.

Yes, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran were banged up earlier in the year, but they have still played in 60 and 54 games, respectively. The only change from the Opening Day roster, position player-wise, is the addition of backup infielder Brendan Ryan in place of Dean Anna.

The regulars have been in there -- they just haven't been living up to expectations, for the most part. Jacoby Ellsbury is at .285 but has only four home runs. Brian Roberts is at .233 -- more than 40 points below his career average. Alfonso Soriano is at .228, Brian McCann at .221, and Beltran at .220.

Coming into Sunday's game, the Yankees were 10th in the AL in team batting average (.253), and 12th in runs scored (318), ahead of only the Astros, Rays and Red Sox.

Sabathia is working his way back, Pineda could rejoin the rotation later this summer, and GM Brian Cashman will probably swing a trade for a pitcher, too. But the Yankees aren't going anywhere if they don't pick it up at the plate.

Nearly halfway through, they're downright fortunate to be two games over .500 (41-39), in a division weak enough where that puts them within two games of first place.

Up now: The Rapid Reaction on Sunday night's loss, a short take on Whitley's performance, some notes, plus Johnette Howard's column on manager Joe Girardi.

On deck: It'll be Phelps versus righty Chris Archer (4-5, 3.29) in the first of three against the Rays here in the Bronx, first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Andrew Marchand will be on the scene for ESPNNewYork.com.