He is not the savior, and he was never a prodigy, but he was a talented right-handed pitcher who had a popping fastball and killer, knee-buckling curve.
The fact that Phil Hughes carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of last night’s game on the road, against an American League West opponent in his second start of the season, seemed familiar to Yankee fans.
That is because Hughes turned the same trick three seasons ago on May 1, 2007, as a 21-year-old in his second ever major league start at Texas. That game ended with Hughes allowing no hits but being removed from the game, as he popped his hamstring* making a pitch.
As Yogi would say, “It was deja vu all over again,” which is basically being repetitively redundant.
*The great image on SNY a few days ago of New York Mets reliever Ryota Igarashi’s hamstring popping and visible from underneath his pants was the same as Hughes’ hamstring issue in 2007 and Pedro Martinez’ in 2008.
Hughes did return that season, starting 13 games total.
Hs second start last night was just as dominating—probably more dominating. His fastball was great, and his curve induced many weakly hit balls, as there were not too many balls in play that were hit hard. The hardest-hit ball might have been Eric Chavez’ up the middle grounder that hit Hughes and bounced away, and Chavez made it to first base safely.
His final line last night was impressive: 7.1 IP, one H, one ER, two BB, and 10 K’s, with 70 strikes thrown in his 101 total pitches. He probably would have been able to finish the eighth inning, but Hughes walked Gabe Gross in a nine-pitch at-bat two batters after Chavez’ single.
Hughes pretty much threw fastballs, cutters, and curves all night, and when he needed to, he blew the ball by hitters for many of his 10 strikeouts. Interestingly, the pitch f/x summary indicated Hughes did not throw a single change-up, the same pitch he worked on throughout spring training.
Hughes’ command of that new pitch was the primary reason manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman gave Hughes the coveted fifth starter’s job.
The Yankees had too much invested in Hughes’ development as a former first round pick and projected savior. He is not a savior, but just a talented kid finally getting another chance at starting in the major leagues.
I am not complaining about Hughes getting that fifth starter’s job, as it was a foregone conclusion that he would “win” the job. It did not matter how well Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre pitched. That is why the manager and GM came out with those change-up command reasons for keeping him in the rotation and sending Joba Chamberlain to the pen.
I was against Joba in the pen (I believe Mark Melancon can be a dominant closer), as I feel he can still be a very effective starting pitcher, but it appears Cashman and Girardi’s plan of Hughes in the rotation and Joba in the pen has worked very well.
Everybody is happy with that.