NEW YORK -- As far as first big league starts go, an outing about 1,200 miles from Yankee Stadium is just about as good as it gets for David Phelps.
The young right-hander, who flew back to Missouri early on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the club, will make his first career start Thursday against the Royals and will be able to do so in front of a few dozen family members and friends. The Notre Dame product grew up in St. Louis and said it's about a 2 1/2-hour drive from his home to Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
"I'm really excited," Phelps said. "I'm trying as much as I can to take it like it's any other game, but it's a big deal for me. It's going to be awesome. I'm gonna have a lot of family there."
Phelps said he expects at least 25 people there to support him, including his parents, brother and wife.
"It's a lot nicer than if it were to happen in somewhere like, say, Seattle," Phelps said. "It's kind of difficult for some of my family to get up here to watch me throw, so it's really nice to be so close to home. If it's gonna be in any other ballpark other than St. Louis, it's the closest one. It's just good, in a sense, that I can give back to the people that sacrificed so much for me to be where I am today."
The rookie, who has been working as a reliever for the Yankees this season, moves into the rotation after striking out 14 and walking just two in his first 17 2/3 big league innings.
In 20 Minor League appearances last year (all starts) in the Yankees' farm system, Phelps was 7-7 with a 2.99 ERA.
"What has probably helped him is he's been thrust into a role that he's never done before and not in an easy situation, and he's done OK," manager Joe Girardi said. "So he's got that nervousness part out. Managing some of the other things -- your first start and first time your family's gonna see you a lot -- that can be difficult at times. Hopefully he gets in his little area and focuses on what he's got to do."