David Phelps has been the model of consistency since being drafted back in 2008. But while his…
Phelps Not Planning On Changing
Come year two, there was no hint of a sophomore slump. Between Charleston and Tampa the following year, Phelps was outstanding, posting a 13-4 record with a miniscule 2.38 ERA, and struck out 122 in 151 innings pitched.
After his first two magnificent seasons, Phelps only got better. He started the 2010 season with Trenton, where he was arguably the league's best pitcher over the first half of the season. In 14 starts, he went 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA, and mowed down 84 batters in just 88 innings.
The most intriguing part of Phelps wild success is that he has barely used more than his fastball and slider, and has gotten by without the use of a curveball. That has all changed since his call-up to Triple-A, where he says the use of his off-speed pitches is what is going to define his success at this level.
"That's the one pitch that I've definitely had to throw more here than at other levels," said the Missouri native. "[The] curveball and changeup are definitely my two biggest pitches here because I've got my fastball and slider, but I've got to have something to slow it down, whether it's the curveball or changeup, they need to see something that changes speeds, and I've been working hard to throw them more often."
His ERA has dropped each and every year. But now at the highest level before the big leagues, Phelps has hit a bit of a "snag". In his first six games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Phelps is "just" 3-2 with a 3.18 ERA. Adjusting to the competence of hitters has been the hardest part thus far, says Phelps.
"They say sometimes the hardest jump is Double-A to Triple-A," said the 6-foot-3 Notre Dame product. "These hitters are not going to swing at bad pitches, they're really going to make you work to get them out. I wasn't really getting ahead of guys and wasn't throwing balls for strikes and it really came back to haunt me."
But two starts ago, Phelps displayed the poise and command of a wily vet, scattering just five hits while fanning six batters in 6 2/3 innings of work against the Pawtucket Red Sox last Sunday to increase his record to 2-2 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and lower his ERA to 3.29.
"The biggest thing up here is that you have to be consistent with all of your pitches in order to be successful," said Phelps. "I've had a couple starts where I have been, but also have had a few where I haven't been and gotten hurt in a few of those starts."
Ironically, his skipper says that Phelps is at his competitive best when either he or the team isn't at their overall best.
"We've made some miscues behind him on some of the other starts," manager Dave Miley said, "but he's going out there and the one thing that stands out is that he has a way of turning it up a notch when he gets in trouble."
While here, Phelps has been constantly working on improving his repertoire. He hasn't just focused on single parts of his game, however, he has worked on all aspects of pitching.
"[My stuff]feels great," said Phelps. "A few starts my mechanics weren't there, and my fastball wasn't on which is something I usually pride myself on, but my stuff feels good, it's just a matter of getting out there and throwing it for strikes."
He's taken advantage of his peers as well, taking pointers from anyone who has offered it. But for Phelps, no one has been more influential than former Scranton reliever Mark Melancon.
"I take advice from a lot of guys here because a majority of our team has been up there," said Phelps. "One thing [Mark] Melancon really tried to press on me is to really take my time here, really iron out all my stuff so that once I get there I don't really having to work on stuff; don't change what I've been doing, just do the same thing you've been doing. There may be a few things to add, but keep pitching the way you have been pitching."
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