Facing Pujols, Phelps continues ascent

Facing Pujols, Phelps continues ascent

Facing Pujols, Phelps continues ascent
NEW YORK -- As if David Phelps' first tour of duty in a big league uniform hasn't been memorable enough, he emerged from the Yankees' bullpen on Saturday afternoon and dashed into his childhood fantasy.

Phelps grew up as a Cardinals fan in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, Mo., and now he found himself standing 60 feet, six inches from Albert Pujols, whom Phelps had often paid to watch swat tape-measure homers into the seats at Busch Stadium.

"I've been rooting for him as long as I can remember," the rookie right-hander said. "It's one of those things that you watch a big league game and think, 'I wonder what it'd be like to pitch to him.' It was cool to get out there and do it."

Facing the 25-year-old Phelps, Pujols flied out to deep center in the fourth, skied to left field in the sixth and lined to shortstop on Phelps' last pitch in the ninth.

"He's intimidating," Phelps said. "You've got such a small margin of error. I went out there and tried to bear down as much as I can, and made good pitches against him.

"I hoped it'd be that good. Any time you can get him out three times in a row, chalk it up, because it doesn't happen very often."

Even more impressive was how Phelps handled Pujols and the rest of the Angels lineup. Mopping up after starter Phil Hughes was knocked out in the fourth, Phelps held the Halos to a Vernon Wells solo homer over 5 1/3 innings.

Phelps walked two and struck out four in the 78-pitch relief appearance. The Wells homer is the only hit and run the right-hander has permitted through 8 1/3 innings in three appearances.

"The situations that we've put him in, he hasn't been fazed and he has thrown strikes -- quality strikes," manager Joe Girardi said. "Today, the first hitter he sees is Albert Pujols. He has made quality pitches with four different pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider, change. That's what impressed me the most."