The pre-game crossword puzzle routine is familiar, and so is his thoughtfulness before answering questions. He comes from a university steeped in academic and athletic tradition. And if you watch long enough, there is a resemblance in his pitching mechanics.

This is not to imply David Phelps is going to have Mike Mussina’s career, but there are similarities between the right-handers who attended Notre Dame and Stanford, respectively.

Phelps has been terrific in four exhibition starts and remains locked into a fight for the No. 5 starter spot with fellow righty Ivan Nova — provided Phil Hughes avoids opening the season on the disabled list.

“They are matching each other inning for inning,’’ Joe Girardi said of Phelps and Nova. “That’s a good problem.’’

Phelps made a big splash in yesterday’s 3-0 win over the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium by tossing five shutout innings and allowing just three hits. In 14 spring innings, the 26-year-old, who was taken in the 14th round of the 2008 draft, has allowed one run.

“He has picked up where he left off,” Girardi said of Phelps, who went 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 games (11 starts) a year ago.

Phelps understands the competition with Nova, who has worked in two games, logging five innings without allowing a run.