This might have been the best Phil Hughes has pitched this spring, and his four scoreless innings came after Joe Girardi told the fifth starter candidates that results are starting to matter this spring.
What’s more important — and impressive — is that Hughes got those results while still working on his changeup. He threw a first-pitch changeup for probably the first time in his life, and he threw a 2-1 changeup with runners on base, inducing a groundball.
“I threw some in counts where normally I would never, ever do it,” he said. “And I got good results with it.”
Check out his audio. It’s good to hear a young player talk about the big picture when he’s fighting for a job.
Cleary, The Associated Press takes better pictures of Mariano Rivera than I do. That’s their work on the right. You’ve all seen my attempts.
In his first spring outing, Rivera had the bases loaded but of course got out of it with no damage done. “It’s good because you’re out there throwing your pitches, working,” Rivera said. “It’s not six, seven, eight pitches. You need to throw to build you.
His arm felt “day and night” different from last spring, when he was coming back from surgery. “Last year it wasn’t even close,” he said. Here’s Rivera’s quick session with the media. He’s scheduled to next pitch on Friday, which is a split-squad day, and there was a lot of joking about the idea that he might be asked to pitch in the road game, which absolutely never happens.
A.J. Burnett wasn’t especially happy with his outing, but he also hadn’t faced hitters in 10 days because his previous start was rained out. Jorge Posada told Burnett that this was the best his changeup had looked, but Burnett was more worried about his fastball.
“My emphasis is on my four-seam right now,” Burnett said. “My next pen I’ll probably throw 30 down and away and that’s all I’ll throw. I have to get that back and establish that… That’s my bread and butter. As good of a hook as I’ve got, that four-seamer is what sets the table. I’ve got to get confidence back in that.”
UPDATE, 11:52 p.m.: Just a very quick update before I head to bed. Girardi’s session with the media was very short, only four or five questions, including one from Girardi himself who asked whether I now have the flu because I coughed when I walked in the room. Someone responded that Rivera was sneezing during his interview, to which Girardi said:
“He’s allergic to come in in the fifth.”
Pretty good line. The bulk of the interview was about Hughes.
“He threw the ball extremely well tonight,” Girardi said. “Attacked the strike zone. Had a good curveball. Threw some good changeups tonight. He let his fielders do the work, too. He looked good tonight. It seems like his fastball command gets better and better each outing, and that’s important.”