As I suggested yesterday, Freddy Garcia has been removed from the rotation of the New York Yankees. Following a second-consecutive disaster on the mound, the Yankees couldn't bear to continue hoping that Garcia would reverse his downward spiral.
With less than four innings pitched over his last two starts against the Red Sox and Tigers, Garcia was heavily taxing the bullpen in addition to burying his team early in ballgames.
To take Garcia's spot, the Yankees transitioned 25-year-old rookie David Phelps from his bullpen role into the starting rotation.
Phelps has been pitching solidly out of the bullpen, the first time in his professional career that he has served as a regular relief pitcher. In 87 minor league appearances over four years in the Yankee system, Phelps made 86 starts.
During his minor league career, Phelps has had incredible success, going 38-15 overall, with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. In two seasons at Triple-A Scranton, he was 10-8 with a 3.14 ERA and a WHIP of 1.295.
While Phelps has never been an overwhelming strikeout pitcher, averaging 7.4 Ks per nine innings, he has always displayed impeccable command. His walk rate is only two per nine innings, something which will serve him well in his transition to the big league rotation.
In his workload as a reliever so far in 2012, Phelps has quickly developed into a fan-favorite with a handful of stellar performances.
Over six games out of the Yankee bullpen, Phelps has tossed 17.2 innings, allowing only 12 hits with seven walks and 14 strikeouts. He owns a 3.57 ERA and a WHIP of 1.075.
His walk rate is slightly higher than desired at 3.6 per nine, and he has allowed four home runs in those 17.2 innings for a rate of two per nine. Though he has been difficult to hit, that home run rate is something he'll need to reduce in order to continue his effectiveness.
At this point however, he is replacing a pitcher in Freddy Garcia that has experienced an incredibly difficult time retiring hitters. The standard that Garcia set is not one that should be difficult to surpass for Phelps. Nearly anything Phelps contributes will be seen as an improvement over what the Yankees have gotten out of their fifth starter so far in 2012.
If Phelps can find success in the Yankee rotation, he may even present a threat to Phil Hughes' starting job once Andy Pettitte returns to the Bronx. With about two weeks until Pettitte is expected to make the leap to MLB, Hughes might have only two starts to impress the Yankees.
Hughes has struggled nearly as much as Garcia, but his Yankee roots and perceived upside have given him the edge over the journeyman veteran thus far. However, in four starts, Hughes owns a 7.88 ERA and opponents have hit .329 against him, so his spot is hardly guaranteed.
The next couple weeks should provide some compelling baseball as the two young right-handers vie to grab a firm grip of a starting rotation spot in the Bronx.