Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweeted this morning that "freddy garcia has leg up for no. 4 starter spot but its wide open for no. 5."
The veteran right-hander was signed this offseason by the Yankees to provide some depth for what looks to be a shaky back-end of the rotation.
With the rotation being headlined by ace CC Sabathia, young righty Phil Hughes and the inconsistent AJ Burnett, the Yankees are looking to capitalize on production from the final two spots.
Garcia, largely considered to be the favorite for the fourth spot, leads a group of starters who are vying for the last two spots in the rotation. Bartolo Colon, Sergio Mitre, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Hector Noesi and Andrew Brackman are fighting desperately for that last spot, now that it seems Garcia has cemented himself as the fourth starter.
Out of the aforementioned group, look for Nova to win the battle. Look out for David Phelps, though. Last season he split between the Yankees Double-A and Triple-A affiliates and was very successful.
In Double-A for the Trenton Thunder, Phelps pitched to a 6-0 record with a 2.04 ERA in 14 starts. In 88.1 innings he struck out 84.
After being called up to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, he pitched to a 4-2 record with a 3.07 ERA in 11 starts. His strikeout totals went down, however, as he struck out just 57 batters in 70.1 innings.
Phelps is a finesse pitcher who likes to get ahead in the count and pitch to contact. He has command of all of his pitches and is not afraid to throw any of his pitches in any count.
With Garcia occupying the fourth spot, the Yankees have a relatively solid front four if everyone produces as expected. Garcia should match last year's successes, when he went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA.
The Yankees would love an ERA closer to 4.00, but the offense should keep Garcia off the hook in some high-scoring games.
As spring training continues to take shape, the race for the fifth spot will continue to grow. But for now, Garcia is No. 4.