Phil Hughes had seven strikeouts tonight, and the way he remembers it, all but one came on a modified version of his cutter. Disappointed in the pitch this spring, Hughes tweaked his cutter grip and turned the pitch into more of a slider, something slightly slower and bigger.
“It’s probably technically more slider now,” Hughes said. “But I’ll still call it a cutter because I don’t want to get in the mode of getting around it and lazy with it. If I just tell myself it’s a cutter, I’ll throw it with conviction.”
Hughes threw a slider when he was younger, including his early years in the Yankees minor league system, but he eventually dumped the pitch and picked up the cutter. When the cutter disappointed him again last week, Hughes had Larry Rothschild work with him on finding a new cutter/slider grip. He tried a few slight modifications, found one he liked and used the pitched 25 to 30 times tonight. He threw it more than either his curveball or changeup.
“It’s bigger so I assume it has to lose a little velocity to get that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s slow enough that they recognize it… I have to give it my fastball arm speed and not get lazy with it. If I do that, I don’t think it will fall in the same mode I was when I was 16 years old throwing my slider, because I didn’t really know what I was doing (back then).”
Here’s Hughes, who began his interview with his usual banter, suggesting we wouldn’t be able to come up with a first question without Kim Jones, who usually starts the postgame interviews.
Curtis Granderson is the fourth Yankee to hurt his oblique this spring, and the others told him that the day after is usually the worst. For Granderson, that was good news. He woke up feeling pretty good today. He can feel that something’s still not quite right, but the oblique didn’t really hurt him today.
“Normal movements feel fine,” he said.
The test will come when Granderson is cleared to begin baseball activities. Doctors have told him than an internal oblique injury is unusual — it’s usually the external that’s hurt — and Granderson said his injury is most similar to Joba Chamberlain’s. If he’s out a little more than a week, like Chamberlain was, it might make sense to DL him out of camp and add an extra outfielder for a few days. Granderson could stay back and play out the rest of the minor league spring schedule, which runs through April 3.
“(The weather in New York) can add to potential issues considering what we have and trying to keep it warm,” Grandersons aid. “Obviously being here in Tampa is the best place to be right now.”
Here’s Granderson discussing the injury before tonight’s game.
• Facing another right-heavy lineup, Hughes didn’t use his changeup too often tonight, but he said he was happy with the handful he did throw. “The changeup definitely has its place,” Hughes said. “I didn’t change the slider to not have to answer any more questions about the (changeup).”
• When Girardi said pregame that he thought Granderson could be healthy enough for Opening Day, the the Yankees did not yet have the MRI results. Girardi said the MRI didn’t change his opinion. “I still think there’s a possibility he’s going to be there Opening Day for us,” Girardi said.
• If you missed it in the game post, Jorge Vazquez, Greg Golson, Jose Gil, Jordan Parraz, Brandon Laird, Kevin Russo and Melky Mesa were sent to minor league camp today. Russo, Mesa and Laird were optioned previously, but they’ll actually report to minor league camp this time.
• After the game, the Yankees also sent Ryan Pope, Steve Garrison and Eric Wordekemper to minor league camp. Pope and Garrison were previously optioned but had been sticking around big league camp to serve as backups.
• Sending Golson to minor league camp doesn’t rule him out of making the Opening Day roster. In fact, he was sent down because the Yankees consider him a possible replacement if Granderson does end up on the DL. “Goley is a guy that we would definitely consider if Curtis is down,” Girardi said. “We want him to go get some at-bats. He’s been kind of behind and I don’t want him getting one at-bat (per game) here.”
• Freddy Garcia will pitch at the minor league complex tomorrow. He’s the only big leaguer scheduled to pitch. Jesus Montero will catch him. Austin Romine caught A.J. Burnett at the minor league complex today.
• Alex Rodriguez’s 13-game hitting streak ended on Monday. Tonight, his streak of eight straight games with an RBI came to an end. He did go 2-for-4, though.
• Other than Rodriguez, the Yankees had only four hits, but they beat the Blue Jays 5-3. Derek Jeter, Greg Golson, Brandon Laird and Robinson Cano had the other hits.
• Jeter has a modest four-game hitting streak, with a double in two of the four games. He’s struck out once since March 6.
• One scoreless inning from Mariano Rivera, and one scoreless from Boone Logan. Logan once again struck out three. He also picked up his first save. Hughes was thrilled to learn he’d picked up his first spring win.
• Today’s lineup with Jeter in the leadoff spot and Brett Gardner batting ninth could be the Yankees usual setup against left-handed starters. Girardi said he’s seriously considering a different leadoff man for righties and lefties. “It could possibly happen,” he said. “It’s not unusual to have one lineup for left-handers and one for right-handers. Sometimes guys move up in the order or you drop a guy down a little bit.”
Associated Press photos