BOSTON — This week was not David Phelps’ first visit to Fenway Park. As a former member of the New York Yankees, it was once a regular stop for the right-handed reliever.
However, working his way back from 2018 Tommy John surgery, the 32-year-old Blue Jays pitcher viewed the famed ball park like never before during his latest appearance this week.
“I do appreciate it more,” Phelps said in an interview in Fenway’s infamously cramped visitors clubhouse. “Obviously, it can be a tough environment and it’s loud and all those things. But for me now, it’s just so great to be back in a major-league ball park. There’s definitely a different outlook.
“You definitely pause and soak it up a little more.”
A tale that is familiar by now, the lost season of 2018 was particularly gruesome for Phelps, who persevered through the pain and monotony until getting a new lease on his baseball life back in January when signed by the Jays. He began the season on the injured list and finally made his Jays debut June 17.
And the more action he gets, the more appreciative Phelps is for both the opportunity and for the life that had left him for what had to have felt like an eternity. The sounds, the smells and the competitive juices were all welcome after his painstaking ordeal.
“It feels good, my arm has been bouncing back well,” Phelps said. “We’re very happy with where we’re at and the stuff’s been getting better every time out.
“More than anything, I’m excited to be pitching in big league games again and that I’m getting comfortable not having to worry about the pain.”
That comfort took another leap forward on Tuesday when Phelps worked 1.2 clean innings in the Jays win over the Red So. The 34 pitches he threw were the most since his April 3 start to the 2017 season.
Doing it on a big-league mound and in a hostile environment only added to the allure for Phelps. There was no roar of the crowd as he rehabbed at the Jays’ Dunedin facility for much of the winter and there was no chance to show he could put aside big-league hitters, either.
“The biggest thing for me through the rehab process is once I got to a point where I was more thinking about the sequences and what pitches I wanted to throw as opposed to what my arm was feeling like,” Phelps said. “I kind of made that turn in Buffalo. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about what my arm was feeling like on a regular basis.
“The mental hurdle is usually the last one to get past. And now that I’m there, it’s exciting. As I’m getting more comfortable with my pitches, I’m able to have more intent with what I’m doing.”
BORUCKI IS BACK
Could the starting rotation finally be getting some good news?
Manager Charlie Montoyo confirmed that left-hander Ryan Borucki’s next start will be with the big team, meaning he’s likely to make his 2019 debut on Monday at the Rogers Centre versus the Cleveland Indians.
Borucki was placed on the injured list with elbow inflammation on March 25 and has been working his way back to health.
It was hoped that after making 17 starts last season, he’d be a significant part of the rotation this season.
Meanwhile, to make room for Thursday’s starter, left-hander Thomas Pannone, the Jays designated right-hander Nick Kingham for assignment.
STRIKEOUTS FOR SALE
Though the Jays have had Red Sox starter Chris Sale’s number of late, it was swing- and-miss time on Thursday.
The veteran all star recorded his first win at Fenway in more than a year (July 11, 2018) and he struck out 12 in recording the win with six complete innings.
“You could tell early on that it was Chris Sale and he was on,” Montoyo said. “There was no room for error. He was just throwing a lot of strikes.”
The Jays managed just two harmless singles off Sale and reliever Marcus Walden, the fifth time this season they have been held to two hits or fewer in game.
AROUND THE BASES
While the potential trade of Marcus Stroman gets more real now that we’re inside the two-week window prior to the July 31 trade deadline, Any thought that the Jays would baby their best starter until then were dismissed when Montoyo confirmed that Stroman will get the ball for a start Friday in Detroit. The Jays’ other prime trade chip, closer Ken Giles, wasn’t available to pitch on Thursday after throwing 22 the night before. But Montoyo said other than some rust, Giles is fine … The Jays on Thursday were shut out for the seventh time this season. The Red Sox, who are fighting to remain in the AL Wildcard race, have taken five of their past six vs. the Jays … Boston third baseman Rafael Devers continues to shred Toronto pitching, providing the power with a three-run homer off of Pannone on Thursday. Besides being the most RBIs any major-league team has allowed to any one player this season, Devers’ 28 against them are the most a Boston hitter has recorded against one team since Norm Zauchin had 32 versus the Washington Senators in 1955.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019