On the day he was drafted, Phil Hughes already had velocity and command of his fastball. There was work to be done, obviously, but the fastball was good from the beginning. He’s always had some sort of breaking ball, too – a slider for a while, then a curveball – and the cutter seemed to come to him in an instant.
The changeup, though, has always been a work in progress, and Hughes is going to need it tonight.
“It’s another weapon, especially in his ballpark to left-handers,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “You need something soft going down and away from left-handers. He’s also used it effectively against right-handers as well. It’s been a big pitch for him and we knew it would be, that’s why we hammered it home so hard in Spring Training.”
To neutralize the Twins left-heavy lineup, the Yankees threw left-handed starters in Games 1 and 2, but there are no lefties left for Game 3.
Right-handed pitchers use changeups against left-handed hitters. That’s just standard procedure, and in a ballpark that’s known to be friendly to left-handed power hitters – the Twins have three good ones – Hughes is going to need his fourth-best pitch.
“I think my change-up has been a big key my last couple of starts in being effective against lefties,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a big pitch for me again (tonight). Obviously, CC with his slider and Andy with his cutter, they can neutralize lefties really well. For me, I have to take a little bit different approach. Maybe some cutters in, fastballs, I think that changeup is going to be a big key for me.”
Hughes threw the changeup a lot in Spring Training. Joe Girardi said the development of that pitch was one of the reasons Hughes won the fifth spot in the rotation. There were times during the season when Hughes hardly used the changeup at all, but we’ve seen it a little more in the past few weeks. We’ll see it tonight when the Yankees look to wrap up a series sweep.
“We did what we had to do in Minnesota,” Hughes said. “Now we have the opportunity to close it out here in Game 3, and we can’t take anything off. We have one more game to win and we know this is a dangerous team. And just because we’re at home, it’s not going to be any easier. So we’re in a good position right now. But we still have one more to get.”
Associated Press photo of Hughes