Life is different in the bullpen. Phil Hughes knows that all too well.
A.J. Burnett had a bad first inning on Thursday, then had five-plus innings to make up for it. He’ll have the better part of a week to fix any mistakes that might have cost him. Hughes had one bad inning, and one especially bad pitch to Vladimir Guerrero, and then he was out of the game. He may very well have to pitch in another big spot on Saturday.
“You certainly feel like everything is kind of resting on your shoulders when you don’t come through,” Hughes said. “I didn’t do my job and nobody feels worse about it than I do. It’s a situation I’ve been in a lot of times this year and tonight I just wasn’t able to execute pitches and it cost me.”
This is part of the conversion from starter to reliever. Joba Chamberlain went through it. Phil Coke has gone through it. Alfredo Aceves has gone through it. Even Mariano Rivera, once upon a time, went through it.
“I was used to being able to out there and if I had a rough inning, I could at least go out there and try to throw up a zero (the next inning),” Coke said. “But when you’re in the bullpen, your job’s a lot shorter as far as what you have to do… That’s the nature of the beast in the bullpen You have to have a short memory and be able to wipe the slate clean and go out there and get them tomorrow. You can’t hold on to it. That’s something that I had to learn.”
The Yankees will need Hughes to be his old self the rest of these playoffs. That means wiping the slate clean, forgetting and moving on.