Phil Hughes’ substandard velocity was a big topic after the Yankees’ 10-7 loss to the Tigers. In fact, new pitching coach Larry Rothschild sounded a bit worried.
“There’s going to be concern until you see it,” Rothschild said. “That’s just natural. … When you get going and you start to see the velocity, then you can relax a little bit. But until then, we’ll try to figure out if there’s any routine that works for him.”
Hughes was at 88-90 mph during spring training. Joe Girardi said he was usually at 93-94 last season when he won 18 games. But in this game, the 24-year-old righty’s fastball was mostly at 89-90. Hughes thinks it’s just that he still needs to build more arm strength. The second of the two long two-run homers to left he served up to Miguel Cabrera actually was off an 88 mph fastball.
“It was there at the end of the season and I feel fine, so I have no issues with thinking that it won’t be there,” Hughes said. “But right now, it’s just not. … Seeing in the first inning I was like 90, which is not where I need to be. I need to be like 92, 93. So it’s a little disconcerting right now, but I’ll take these next few starts and see where it’s at and evaluate from there.”
Lousy location didn’t help, either. Hughes tried the adjusted slider-like cutter he has been trying to perfect against Cabrera in the first and Cabrera crushed it for the first home. Hughes still thinks it’s going to be a good pitch for him.
“It has to be located, obviously,” Hughes said. “A hanging breaking ball is never a good pitch. So when it’s down in the zone, it’s good for me. But when they’re just spinning out over the plate, it’s a pretty hittable pitch.”
Cabrera is now 7 for 14 with three homers against Hughes. But Cabrera hits a lot of pitchers hard.
“He’s just got a great approach and he’s got a great idea how to hit, and he’s strong and he’s got bat speed,” said Girardi, who managed him in Florida. “That’s a dangerous combination.”
Mark Teixeira, meanwhile, sent up his third homer. The usually slow-starting first baseman is just the second in franchise history to homer in each of the first three games. Dave Winfield did it in 1983 at the now dear-departed Kingdome in Seattle. All of Teixeira’s homers have been from the left side, the side he hit .245 from last season, but the side he has really worked to improve on since then.
“Just swinging a lot more left-handed this offseason,” Teixeira said. “Last year was just a tough year. It was a bad year. I’ve had a little bit of success in my career. I’m just trying to get back to what I’ve done.
“Hard work pays off, sometimes not as quickly as this. I feel great personally that I’ve been able to get off to a good start. But the key is to continue it.”
The Yankees have set a franchise record with nine homers through three games, better than the eight the 1932 and 1981 teams posted. Six Yankees have homered so far.
The team opens a four-game series against the visiting Twins Monday night, with Ivan Nova and Scott Baker scheduled to start.