Rather than merely hand out awards like the Pitcher of the Year and the like, we hand out various…
Phelps Breaking Out
His own toughest critic, one who says he battles complacency since following a tremendous sophomore college at Notre Dame with a subpar junior campaign, Phelps predominantly relied on his fastball-slider-changeup combination a year ago to post an 8-2 record and 2.73 ERA with the Staten Island Yankees.
But in 2009 he started reincorporating the curveball more and while he believes he snapped off some good ones this past season, especially in Charleston, he thinks further advancing his curve could help him duplicate or even surpass his success at the higher minor league levels.
"The curveball was something that I threw in college and we kind of put it in the back pocket when I signed just so we could work on my slider," he revealed. "That's what we worked on mostly at Instructs last year, trying to tighten up my slider. It got a lot better at Instructs.
"This year in Spring Training Nardi [Contreras] wanted me to bring the curveball back out and throughout the season it was a work in progress. It's something that I definitely need to be successful at the next level, wherever it may be.
"Everything right now is fastball and slider, velocity-wise, and my changeup isn't too much slower, so I need more of a slow pitch to break their rhythm."
Striking out 122 batters in 151 innings mostly with either his slider or fastball, Phelps, who hit 95 MPH with his fastball this year, recognizes a reliable curveball could help keep hitters even more off-balanced at the plate.
"There were a couple of times in Charleston where I would throw it for a swing-and-miss," he said. "Mostly though, this season I used it as a get-me-over pitch - 0-0, 0-1 - just to show hitters that I have it.
"That's what it might be for me when it's over, just to put it in the minds of the hitters that I can throw it and put it over. That's one of the biggest things, throwing it for strikes on a consistent basis is one of the biggest things I need to work on."
Hell-bent on not reflecting on his accomplishments and continuing to work hard to further advance his game, Phelps is hoping bettering his breaking ball will help sustain his breakout performances as of late.
"I definitely feel like if I add another pitch to my arsenal all it can do is open doors for me," he continued. "Because instead of being down 1-0 and coming with a fastball, maybe now when I get down 1-0 I can come with a curveball and then I'm back in the count 1-1, I'm back in the advantage.
"Pretty much for me it's trying to find another pitch that I can throw in fastball counts for strikes so that I don't have to throw fastballs when I'm behind in the count."
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