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DET@NYY: Phelps hurls three shutout frames in relief

To Royals manager Ned Yost, the winless 10-game homestand his team endured in April should have no bearing on Kansas City's first homestand of May.

"We have to play better, it doesn't matter if it's at home or on the road," Yost said. "Of course we want to play better in front of our fans at home. We want to give them something to cheer about and something to get excited about. But we have to play better -- period."

A winning streak for Kansas City could start on Thursday, but it's going to take a high level of play. The Royals will be facing two of the toughest teams in the American League, with the Yankees coming to town for four games before the Red Sox come in for three.

For the Yankees, Thursday's series opener brings a new face into the rotation. Right-hander David Phelps comes out of the bullpen for his first big league start.

Phelps, 25, is a St. Louis native, so he didn't grow up too far from the Royals' Kauffman Stadium. He flew back to Missouri early Wednesday afternoon ahead of the club and will have a few dozen family members and friends watching him on Thursday.

"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 last pitched at home in a 7-5 loss to Detroit on Saturday, throwing three hitless innings.

The right-hander has been serving in a long relief role so far this season, but he sees a lot of similarities between what he's been doing and the start he'll make Thursday.

"Being a long man, it's kind of the same process as being a starter," Phelps said. "You want to go out there, give as many innings as you can, limit the damage as much as possible, and you want to take that into a start, too. Go out there, throw as many innings as you can, save the bullpen and give your team a chance to win."

For the Royals, left-hander Danny Duffy is the scheduled starter after missing his last outing because of elbow stiffness. His last time on the mound was an April 22 loss in which he threw 113 pitches and allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays, who won 5-3.

"We have to get more quality innings out of our starting pitching," Yost said. "We keep saying it every day, but we think that's going to come. We have to get our big guys swinging the bats, and they've done that better on this road trip, so that's a plus. We've got two tough clubs coming in, but you combine those two things -- better starting pitching and the batting average health and production of our [Nos.] 2-3-4-5 guys -- and that will take care of the problems."

Yankees: Gardner not ready yet
• Manager Joe Girardi said left fielder Brett Gardner (sore right elbow) will need at least a couple days before he can return to action. Nick Swisher (left hamstring) is also hurt, leaving Eduardo Nunez, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones to fill in.

"We're a little squeezed," Girardi said. "But it's not that I don't have capable and able players to put out there. Right now we're kinda sticking with what we're doing. ... It's not the ideal situation, but we're comfortable with the way we have it."

• Shortstop Derek Jeter reached the 100 at-bat mark with a batting average of exactly .400 during Wednesday's game. Girardi commented on his shortstop's hot start.

"At this juncture, it's a lot of hits early on," Girardi said. "A lot of times hitters don't heat up until the middle of the season. But it's been extremely impressive what he has done. All of us want him to carry it out as long as he can because he's a huge part of our offense. ... Just ride it as long as we can."

Royals: Holland to throw over weekend
Right-hander Greg Holland (rib cage) threw a 26-pitch side session before Wednesday's series finale against the Tigers and is supposed to throw batting practice at Kauffman Stadium over the weekend.

"I know what I need -- no point in pushing it," Holland said.

Worth noting
• The Royals' 10 consecutive home losses to start the season is the longest such stretch in the AL since the 1913 Yankees played their first 18 games (including one tie) without a victory at the Polo Grounds. Comments