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Phelps has strong start, Yanks and Rays tie 3-3

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

By MARK DIDTLER

Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) David Phelps boosted his bid to become the New York Yankees' fifth starter, pitching five scoreless innings Sunday during a 3-3 tie with the Tampa Bay Rays in 10 innings.

Phelps, who gave up three hits and struck out one, is competing with Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno for the final rotation spot behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova. The right-hander has been touched for two runs over 9 2-3 innings in three spring training starts.

"Aggressive in the strike zone," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Got quick outs. Outstanding job."

Chris Archer allowed two hits and had two strikeouts in 3 1-3 shutout innings for the Rays. Archer struck out his first two batters, Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter.

"I felt like I had sustained output as far as my stuff," Archer said. "I used the changeup more. I was successful against really top-notch hitters. A future Hall of Famer in Jeter. Ellsbury, who he is."

Alfonso Soriano had an infield single and Ellsbury doubled off Archer, who went 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA over 23 starts during his rookie season last year.

After missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years, the Yankees added Ellsbury, Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran for a total commitment of $438 million.

Rays manager Joe Maddon thinks the McCann signing might be the biggest by his AL East rival.

"McCann, it starts right there for me," Maddon said. "To be able to get McCann behind the plate, what he brings. Not just the hitting, but what he does toughness-wise, what he does in regards to preparation-wise. And when the pitchers fall in love with that kind of stuff, then they pitch better. To me, that's probably the most important acquisition in my perspective."

Maddon said Ellsbury and Brett Gardner could provide a spark the way Ellsbury and Shane Victorino did last year for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

"That part worries me a little bit because if that starts rolling, that's hard to stop," Maddon said.

Maddon thinks Jeter, limited to 17 games last year due to injuries, is heading toward a strong season.

"Looks like he's in great shape," Maddon said. "I know he's very motivated. At any age you can never count this guy out."

Jeter, who turns 40 in June, announced last month that he plans to retire after the 2014 season.

Rays: Maddon said infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist, who has neck stiffness, could play Monday. Maddon also expects outfielder David DeJesus (sore right side) and reliever Joel Peralta (neck) to return in the next few days.

"There's nothing really serious with any of them," Maddon said.

Yankees: Infielder Brendan Ryan (lower back) will be evaluated Tuesday and could play later in the week.

"Being cautious, to say the least," Ryan said.

Infielder Kelly Johnson had a raised welt shaped like a baseball on the middle of his back after getting hit by a pitch in the seventh inning.

"I'm fine," Johnson said. "Nothing serious. It took the wind out of me."

Johnson jokingly asked if Commissioner Bud Selig's signature could be seen on his back.

The Yankees optioned right-hander Jose Ramirez to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and sent left-hander Francisco Rondon to their minor league camp.

Updated March 9, 2014

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