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Rotation candidate Phelps effective in first start

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Yankees right-hander David Phelps had little reason to complain after turning in his first Grapefruit League start of the year on Saturday.

Phelps threw two scoreless innings in New York's 8-3 victory over the Braves, scattering three hits and getting a little help from his defense as the hurler's spring bid for the rotation officially began.

"I was really happy with the way I commanded my fastball," Phelps said. "That was one of the biggest things that I wanted to do, come in today and get ahead of guys with my fastball. I felt we were able to do that today."

Manager Joe Girardi said that he was pleased in Phelps' ability to throw first-pitch strikes. Right fielder Zoilo Almonte helped Phelps out in the first inning, throwing out Atlanta's Reed Johnson at third base on a Freddie Freeman single, and catcher Francisco Cervelli gunned down Todd Cunningham attempting a steal of second base to end the second inning.

"Results are always going to matter to me, but as of right now I'm happy my arm felt good," Phelps said. "I felt my stuff is where it needed to be for right now. I'm really satisfied with the way the ball was coming out. That's one of the biggest things for me, is just the ball is coming out, keeping it down and hitting my spots. That's really important for me."

Phelps was 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 games (11 starts) as a rookie with New York last season and enters Spring Training projected to fight with Ivan Nova for the fifth slot in the Yankees' rotation.

"I'm not coming into the spring trying to beat somebody out for the spot," Phelps said. "I'm just trying to go out and continue what I was doing last year and have some success, and hopefully build my confidence up and get ready for the season to be ready to pitch in whatever role they ask me to."