TRENTON, N.J. – It’s a legitimate question. What is the difference between a Double-A pitcher and a big-league hurler?
Yankees pitcher David Phelps, on option to the Double-A Trenton Thunder so he could make a scheduled start Monday afternoon, can honestly tell you.
This was after he threw a season-high 94 pitches, 62 strikes, allowed just a first-inning double, walked one and struck out 11 in helping the Eastern League Thunder to a 3-0 win over the Red Sox-affiliated Portland Sea Dogs Monday afternoon at Waterfront Park.
“I can see my progress over when I was here before (6-0, 2.24 in 14 2010 starts with the Thunder),’’ said the 25-year-old Pittsburgh resident. I was thinking about the pitches I threw to batters now as compared to then. Today, I was confident in throwing my curve and cutter in 3-and-2 counts.
Both his four-seamer and two-seamer, which sat in the neighborhood of 92 mph in the sixth inning, were effective as were his cutter and curve. He did not throw many change-ups.
“The difference in the confidence I have in my stuff over two years ago is significant. I never would have thrown those pitches in those counts when I first came here.’’
He allowed only a first-inning double to Portland’s Jeremy Hazelbaker in pitching into the seventh inning. The Sea Dogs hitters seemed befuddled by both his cutter and curve.
Yet, Phelps, as his personality, took nothing for granted. That comes from being drafted in the 14th round in 2008, below many pitchers whom scouts rated higher.
“I was reminded, when you are sent down, you still are going to face professional hitters, whether it’s in Tampa (Class-A advanced), here in Trenton or at any level. They all have the ability to hit certain pitches. You have to mix it up, hit the corners and place your pitches..
“(Trenton pitching coach) Tommy (Phelps, no relation) gave me a good rundown on what to expect from Portland’s hitters.’’ My goal is to keep my team in the game no matter what level I am pitching at.’’
Phelps has appeared in 15 games with the Yankees this year, making 12 relief appearances sprinkled with a trio of starts. He has accepted any role he’s been asked to fill. He also knows what he has to do to remain a starter.
“Where and how I am used is not an issue,’’ he said. “I do know, if I want to start, I have to economize my pitches. After the first few innings, I was able to do that today.
“In Tampa, and in my starts with the Yankees – his lone win came in relief May 14 at Baltimore – I was throwing too many pitches early. Today, I got into the kind of groove I need to.’’
There was no word after yesterday’s game what Phelps will do next. After the All-Star Break, the Yankees will decide where to place him. After Monday’s effort, one can say Phelps is “officially stretched out.’’
“I’m flying home (to Pittsburgh) later tonight and back to Philadelphia later in the week,’’ he said. “By then, we’ll have some plans set.’’
Big-league hitters are not Double-A hitters, but Phelps showed Monday, with his command near-pinpoint, he’s ready to work in any role the Yankees have for him after the All-Star Break.
Back in Double A Trenton over the All-Star break, New York Yankees David Phelps shows he has graduated, writes Jed Weisberger.