Phelps fills Sabathia's shoes admirably

David Phelps isn't delusional. He knows he's no CC Sabathia.

But Phelps did a nice job filling in for the Yankees ace on Saturday afternoon.

The right-hander went 6 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in a losing effort, giving up seven hits and three earned runs.

"I was just getting ahead of guys," Phelps said. "Staying on the attack the whole game and getting in favorable counts for myself."

He struck out seven and made just one crucial mistake all game, leaving a 92 mph fastball off the plate but in a place where Adrian Gonzalez could handle it.

"It was right where we wanted it," Phelps said of the pitch to Gonzalez. "That ball's down and off the plate a little bit. He's strong and he got enough of it."

Gonzalez crushed Phelps' offering over the left-field wall to give Boston a 2-0 lead.

The rookie then retired nine of the next 10 hitters he faced.

"We liked what he gave us," Joe Girardi said.

But Phelps got into trouble in the fifth against Pedro Ciriaco, who is establishing a reputation as a Yankee killer.

The shortstop finished 4-for-4 on Saturday. On the season, Ciriaco is batting .517 (15-29) against the Yankees. Ouch.

In the fifth, Ciriaco hit a one-out single to start a Red Sox rally.

Nick Punto followed with an RBI double that turned into a triple when Andruw Jones bobbled the ball in the right-field corner.

Had Jones come up with the ball cleanly and fired home, maybe Ciriaco doesn't score there.

It was one of the flew blemishes in an otherwise strong outing for Phelps.

"I love what that kid gives us," Nick Swisher said.

Saturday was Phelps' second start in place of Sabathia. And it seems like it may be his last.

Sabathia threw a bullpen session on Saturday for the first time since going on the disabled list with a sore left elbow.

Afterward, he said in no uncertain terms that he'd be starting on Friday against Cleveland.

Girardi was hesitant to commit to a return date for Sabathia. But it seems that as long as Sabathia doesn't suffer a setback, he'll be on the mound in Cleveland.

Which leaves Phelps' future unclear.

Girardi dismissed the idea that Phelps could replace Ivan Nova, who has struggled of late, or any other Yankees starter.

"No, our guys are going to make their starts," Girardi said, adding of Phelps, "We like what he does. He's a guy that's somewhat of a swing guy for us. If we need him to start he can start. He's a valuable guy on your team because he can do so many things and he's had success in all areas."

Once Sabathia returns, Phelps could go to the minor leagues and remain stretched out to start or could return to the Yankees bullpen as a long man.

For the next few days, however, Phelps will continue to prepare as if he's starting in place of Sabathia, until he hears otherwise.

"I'll just show up tomorrow, do my work and go from there," Phelps said. "I'll think about the next day when it comes."