It's official. Yankees reliever David Robertson will be activated from the Disabled List and join the club for its weekend showdown against the N.L. East-leading Washington Senators. In a corresponding move, reliever David Phelps is getting demoted to the minors, despite his 3.23 ERA in 33⅔ innings. Phelps, who's mostly been a reliever with the big club, will reportedly return to starting in the minors, so he's ready to fill in as a starter for the Yankees if needed.
And Robertson's role? From Mark Feinsand (via the Daily News):
Robertson has missed the past month after suffering a strained left oblique on May 11. He pitched in minor-league rehab games on Sunday and Tuesday, reporting no problems. This was Robertson’s first career trip to the DL, making the past few weeks feel like an eternity.
Robertson will slot back into the eighth inning, as Rafael Soriano will continue to serve as the closer. David Phelps figures to be the odd man out when Robertson is activated, as Cody Eppley has emerged as a useful piece of the bullpen during the past month.
Robertson, as you might recall, pitched brilliantly as Mariano Rivera's set-up man last season, and then again this spring; in his first 13 outings, he didn't allow a run. But then Rivera got hurt, Robertson got the closer job, and in his first two outings in that role he got cuffed around. In his next appearance he pitched well enough in a non-save situation, but also got hurt in that game and hasn't pitched since.
Now he's coming back, having lost his job as Rivera's replacement. But that was probably already in the cards, as Soriano's got a lot of experience as a closer and has pitched well since taking over, converting 11 of 12 save opportunities and posting a 1.59 ERA with good peripherals.
Bottom line? It probably doesn't matter who's pitching the eighth and who's pitching the ninth. Both innings are important, and as long as both Robertson and Soriano are healthy, they'll probably pitch well enough for the Yankees to protect a huge percentage of their late-inning leads.