A Rule 5 Draft selection from the Orioles in December 2006, Phelps' race to be a regular-season Yankee is nearing a crucial stretch, with just eight Grapefruit League games remaining.
Entering the spring competing with Andy Phillips to serve as the right-handed half of a first-base platoon with Doug Mientkiewicz, Phelps has done little to hurt his cause.
One day after cracking a home run off Cincinnati's Dustin Hermanson, Phelps' second of the spring, he came off the bench cold in the sixth inning on Friday and ripped a pinch-hit single to left off the Pirates' Juan Perez, a hard-throwing left-hander.
"Josh Phelps has been terrific," manager Joe Torre said. "He's had a great spring. He's had the advantage of Andy Phillips' disadvantage. He does have experience with a few different organizations, which I think adds to your feel of belonging."
The Yankees like the fact that Phelps, 28, has served as a reserve player in the Major Leagues, spending time with the Blue Jays, Indians and Devil Rays. That's a role that Phillips -- groomed as a starter in the team's Minor League system -- has appeared to have difficulty adjusting to at times.
"That's certainly going to be an advantage," Torre said.
The Yankees have said that they will not penalize Phillips for missing a week of camp to attend to his mother, Linda, who was injured in an automobile accident in Alabama. Accordingly, Phelps said he didn't feel that Phillips' absence boosted his odds.
"You've still got to go up to the plate and you've got to hit the ball," Phelps said. "Whether Andy's sitting on the bench or not, you've still got to go out and do the job. There was really nothing uncontested."
But with the clock ticking toward Opening Day, Phillips is in dire need of at-bats, with just 14 logged through Friday in Grapefruit League play. Phillips stroked a hit after taking over first base from Mientkiewicz on Friday and is batting .286.
It would be asking a great deal for Phillips to match the production Phelps put up in his absence, but Torre has said that the Yankees keep a little "in the bank" from Phillips' previous 142 games of Major League experience with New York last season.
The decision -- one of several unsettled battles on the Yankees, including backup catcher and two relief spots -- could come down to the final days of Spring Training.
The soft-spoken Phelps is content to allow the previous three weeks to do the talking for him.
Asked if there was anything more he felt he could do to make the team, Phelps replied: "It'd be pretty hard."
Wang injured while running: Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang was shut down for the afternoon on Friday after he "felt something" while jogging in conditioning exercises at the Legends Fields complex in Tampa, Fla., according to general manager Brian Cashman.
Cashman sent word of Wang's injury through Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo. The hurler was not sent for further tests.
"He had a cramp, that's all I got out of it," Torre said. "I've had no emergency calls."
Wang, who is a possibility to pitch the Yankees' season opener on April 2 against the Devil Rays, is expected to discuss the injury with reporters on Saturday. Wang last pitched on Thursday, working six innings in a Minor League game against the Phillies' Triple-A roster.
Slow progression: Left-hander Andy Pettitte was cleared to toss lightly and stretch with the team on Friday, three days after he missed a scheduled bullpen session with back spasms.
"I'm feeling better every day," Pettitte said. "I convinced them enough where I can play light catch."
Pettitte was originally scheduled to pitch on Friday, but his back tightened while performing squats exercises on Monday. The 34-year-old did not improve by the time he reported to Legends Field on Tuesday seeking treatment.
With the missed start, Pettitte would likely have just one more appearance before the Yankees open the regular season. Torre said he believed that would be enough for Pettitte, who allowed five hits and no runs in 10 innings this spring.
"If he gets one more start, even if it's a week from [Friday], it's fine," Torre said. "Hopefully, we can get there."
Beam reassigned, optioned: The number of players in camp dropped to 44 on Friday as right-hander T.J. Beam was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and reassigned to Minor League camp.
Beam was 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in seven spring appearances, and Torre said that the reassignment may have been a relief to the 26-year-old hurler who had shown signs of pressing even though his results were somewhat acceptable.
Beam took the loss on Friday against the Reds in Sarasota, Fla., surrendering back-to-back doubles to Enrique Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion in the ninth inning, bringing home the winning run.
"He has great stuff, but right now he just needs to recapture the feel and the confidence that we saw last spring," Torre said.
This and that: Kei Igawa skipped a scheduled side session on Friday. He'd prefer to throw Saturday instead and prepare for his start on Monday. "He's got a plan; don't mess with it," Torre said. ... Mike Myers threw two innings in a Minor League game on Friday, allowing an unearned run.
Coming up: The Yankees will play the 23rd game of their 30-game Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday, hosting the Toronto Blue Jays at Legends Field. Mike Mussina is scheduled to start for the Yankees, with Victor Zambrano on the hill for Toronto.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. ET. Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth and Myers are also scheduled to pitch for New York.