Phil Hughes seemed to know the changeup questions were coming, though I doubt he expected that he’d spend six minutes talking about a pitch he threw a total of three times today.
“I do want to get my curveball going and my cutter going,” Hughes said. “I’m not just going to throw a ton of changeups just to throw it because I want to get my other pitches going as well. I just feel like right now it’s a start, and hopefully when I get some more pitches the next time out, I’ll throw some more of them.”
Hughes said he’s been throwing a lot of changeups in his side sessions, and he’s more committed to the long-term success of the pitch. Hughes developed the changeup a lot last spring, then hardly used it when he got off to a terrific start last season. He’s not looking to re-invent the pitch, he just wants to gain the confidence to use it even when his fastball, cutter and curveball are working.
“The pitch itself is the same changeup,” Hughes said. “It’s just making sure I throw it enough that it’s actually a factor and in some of these hitters’ heads.”
One small adjustment is a combination of mental and physical. Like a lot of Yankees pitchers, Hughes said Larry Rothschild found a way to give him a little bit of advice that’s already paying dividends.
Pitchers are often told that they need to throw the changeup the same way they throw a fastball, because arm speed is important to create deception. Rothschild explained it a slightly different way, focusing on the finish instead of the beginning.
“Exploding my hand to the end,” Hughes said. “Really get that arm speed going to the end, not necessarily get it going from the beginning because hitters are only going to see your hand come through the zone. They don’t know your back stroke or anything like that. (Rothschild said) not to get too aggressive with it where it sails up out of the zone, just make sure you pop your hand at the end. It’s really stuck with me.”