First Pitch: Your mission, Mr. Phelps . . .

DENVER -- . . . is to make the Yankees' decision difficult when Ivan Nova is ready to come off the disabled list.

David Phelps gets the ball today as the Yankees try to get even with the Colorado Rockies for Tuesday night's 2-0 loss, and it might be his last chance to prove to the Yankees that they are better off with him in the rotation than with Nova, who is starting an extended-spring game today in Tampa and might be ready to return as soon as Monday, when the Yankees have to play a makeup doubleheader against the Indians in Cleveland.

Phelps is coming off a lackluster start against the Houston Astros, in which he allowed season-highs in hits (8) and runs (4) in 5 2/3 innings in what became a 5-4 Yankees win. Prior to that, he had pitched quite well on April 26 in relief of Nova, who left after two innings against the Toronto Blue Jays with the triceps soreness that landed him on the DL. Phelps was a monster out of the pen that night, striking out nine in four innings, allowing just two hits and one run, and earning his one and only win of the season.

That raises the perennial question regarding Phelps: Is he more suited to starting or relieving?

Clearly, the Yankees project him as a starter, and this January, owner Hal Steinbrenner singled him out, along with Manny Banuelos and Michael Pineda, as one of the young pitchers he was depending on to help keep the Yankees' payroll below his stated goal of $189 million.

But given the chance to wrest the No. 5 starter's job from Nova in spring training, Phelps was never able to take control of the job, although he wound up in the rotation by default when Phil Hughes started the season on the DL. But now, with Hughes pitching well and Nova apparently ready to return, Phelps is back where he was at the start of spring training, fighting to prove he deserves a rotation spot. Only this time, he probably has just one chance to do it.

That chance comes tonight, against a team he has never faced, in a ballpark that has been known to break pitchers' hearts.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Would you like to see David Phelps remain in the Yankees rotation even after Ivan Nova comes off the DL? Or would you like to reserve judgment on that question until after you see what he does tonight?

UP NOW: A blog on the Yankees' night of non-support for Hiroki Kuroda, who was mostly magnificent last night but took the loss because his teammates couldn't get him three runs. Also postgame notes centering around the question, "Why won't Brett Gardner run?"

ON DECK: Another 8:40 p.m. start tonight, which means the clubhouse opens at 5:10 p.m. I'll be there to post the lineups and pregame notes shortly thereafter so check in around dinner time. And as always, thanks for reading.