Joe Girardi has been saying all spring that he’s not going to focus on statistics when it comes time to decide on the fifth starter. There are other things at work, Girardi says, and not all of them are obvious to the average fan. Here’s an example:
Joba Chamberlain has been told work on getting his pitches in on hitters, particularly right-handers. In his meltdown inning this afternoon, Chamberlain tried to come inside to Austin Jackson and watched Jackson hit a single. Then he tried to come in on Ryan Raburn – another single. Then, a few batters later, he tried to come in on Gerald Laird – grand slam to left and his stat line was suddenly disastrous.
Phil Hughes? He’s been told to work on his change-up. While facing Raburn in the fourth inning today, Hughes was in a 1-1 count. Instead of throwing a cutter (which is what he said he might normally do), Hughes threw two change-ups, both of which missed the plate. Now in a 3-and-1 hole, he had to come over with a fastball that Raburn crushed over the left-field fence.
In both cases, the end results are ugly. But in both cases, the Yankees know that their pitchers were following instructions and trying make themselves better in the long run. Talking about Hughes and his change-up, Girardi said, “I think it comes down to, ‘Does he trust what we’re saying?’ And I think he does.”
My personal opinion is that, regardless of whether it’s based on results or something else, Hughes is firmly in the lead for the fifth starter job. I think the Yankees want him to be a starter long-term and, to this point, he hasn’t done anything that would cost him the spot. Either way, the Yankees are looking at both Chamberlain and Hughes as important pieces for their future – which is why they’re paying attention to a lot more than just the final spring training statistics.
If you’re interested in more from Hughes and Chamberlain, check out some of the audio below.
And here’s Chamberlain: