04/14/12 7:25 PM ET
Facing Pujols, Phelps continues ascent
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Phelps grew up as a Cardinals fan in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, Mo., and now he found himself standing 60 feet, six inches from Albert Pujols, whom Phelps had often paid to watch swat tape-measure homers into the seats at Busch Stadium.
"I've been rooting for him as long as I can remember," the rookie right-hander said. "It's one of those things that you watch a big league game and think, 'I wonder what it'd be like to pitch to him.' It was cool to get out there and do it."
Facing the 25-year-old Phelps, Pujols flied out to deep center in the fourth, skied to left field in the sixth and lined to shortstop on Phelps' last pitch in the ninth.
"He's intimidating," Phelps said. "You've got such a small margin of error. I went out there and tried to bear down as much as I can, and made good pitches against him.
"I hoped it'd be that good. Any time you can get him out three times in a row, chalk it up, because it doesn't happen very often."
Even more impressive was how Phelps handled Pujols and the rest of the Angels lineup. Mopping up after starter Phil Hughes was knocked out in the fourth, Phelps held the Halos to a Vernon Wells solo homer over 5 1/3 innings.
Phelps walked two and struck out four in the 78-pitch relief appearance. The Wells homer is the only hit and run the right-hander has permitted through 8 1/3 innings in three appearances.
"The situations that we've put him in, he hasn't been fazed and he has thrown strikes -- quality strikes," manager Joe Girardi said. "Today, the first hitter he sees is Albert Pujols. He has made quality pitches with four different pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider, change. That's what impressed me the most."
When legs are strong, A-Rod a force
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez says he can still do some special things when his legs are underneath him, and it's Joe Girardi's job to keep the Yankees slugger feeling that fresh.
One day after Rodriguez tied former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place on the all-time list with his 630th career home run, Girardi slotted the 36-year-old slugger in as the designated hitter for Saturday's matinee against the Angels.
"You just kind of try to watch how he's moving in his at-bats," Girardi said, "[and] if you feel like there's that explosiveness in everything that he's doing -- it's really watching really closely, how your perception of how a guy feels and then talking to him and making that decision with their input."
Rodriguez has been using what he calls a "less is more" approach with his workouts, hoping to avoid a repeat of a frustrating 2011 season in which he missed 38 team games after undergoing right knee surgery on a torn meniscus in July.
"I take it one day at a time," Rodriguez said. "For me, it's all about health and feeling good. There's no question in my mind that if I'm healthy and have my legs under me that I can play at a high level and help the team win."
Flu-like symptoms sideline Gardner
NEW YORK -- Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner is battling flu-like symptoms, according to manager Joe Girardi, but he could be available off the bench in Saturday's contest against the Angels.
With Alex Rodriguez in the DH spot, Girardi slotted Andruw Jones in left field against Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson. Girardi plans to play Gardner against some lefties this year, but through seven games, he had started against only the Orioles' Wei-Yin Chen.
"Gardy was pretty sick last night," Girardi said. "It kind of made my decision on what I was going to do easy today. He'll be available."
Pettitte tabbed for 50 pitches in second start
NEW YORK -- Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte is set to take the next step on his comeback trail on Sunday, when he's scheduled to throw 45-50 pitches in a Minor League start for Class A Advanced Tampa.
Pettitte, 39, will take the ball in a 1 p.m. ET start against the Clearwater Threshers, a Phillies affiliate, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.
"In A-ball, you don't always see people working the count, so 45 pitches could take a while," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
That was the case in Pettitte's last start, as the Yankees wanted him to throw two innings and 35 pitches but sent him back out for the third inning -- also against Clearwater. In that start, on Monday, Pettitte threw 26 of 32 pitches for strikes.
The Yankees continue to plan as though Pettitte is returning to the big leagues in May, and Girardi reiterated on Saturday that when the five-time World Series winner is ready, he will have a spot in the rotation.
That will mean bad news for someone in the Yankees' current starting five, but Girardi wasn't prepared to ponder how they'll figure it out.
"That's why we signed [Pettitte]; we're going to have to make an evaluation," Girardi said. "Ready is not just a pitch limit. Ready is how you're throwing the baseball, too. We have to evaluate that. It'll be harder for me to evaluate that, because I'm not going to see him.
"I trust the people that are making the decisions. We'll cross that bridge when we have to. Right now, we don't have to. We want the guys to just go out and throw the baseball the way they're capable."
There was fuss made when Rodriguez moved to the No. 3 spot on Friday, but he was back in the cleanup spot on Saturday against left-handed starter Wilson. Girardi said he likes having two righties in between the left-handed bats in the lineup.
The Yankees' bullpen carried a streak of 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings into Saturday's game, extended by David Robertson's perfect ninth inning in Friday's home opener against the Angels. The Yankees have a 2.01 bullpen ERA this year, second in the American League behind the White Sox 1.76 mark.
On this date in 1955, Elston Howard became the first African-American player in Yankees history, making his big league debut in an 8-4 loss at Fenway Park. Also on this date, the Yankees and Red Sox played to a 4-4 tie at Hilltop Park in 1910 and Phil Rizzuto made his big league debut in 1941.