Phil Hughes had thrown only a few first-inning pitches. He’d seen nothing but hitter reactions — no radar readings, no velocities on the scoreboard — and he already knew that his fastball was just as lifeless as in his previous start.
“It was within the first couple of at-bats,” he said. “I threw a couple of what I thought were good fastballs and they just didn’t have that same effectiveness. I didn’t see the gun at that point. I knew it. I didn’t really need to see readings. I can tell usually within a few pitches if it’s there or not.”
It wasn’t there, and it hasn’t been there through two regular-season starts.
Hughes said it was impossible to know anything based on spring training. Spring is always an unpredictable time, and without regular-season adrenaline, there was no way to be certain what kind of fastball he was bringing into the regular season. The fact his velocity was down this spring wasn’t especially alarming. The fact it was down today — and in his previous start — has Hughes more flustered than worried.
“It’s tough,” he said. “These last four days sitting around on that last bad outing, and now another four days I’m going to have to sit around on this one. It’s a difficult feeling. I don’t feel like I’m bringing anything to the team right now, and that’s a tough thing to deal with. We’re playing great, we’re scoring a lot of runs, and we just can’t afford to give away games like this. It’s difficult because I know I can do a lot better. When I’m going out there without my best stuff, it’s frustrating.”
Right now Hughes has no answers. He and pitching coach Larry Rothschild believe it’s an arm strength issue, not a medical or mechanical issue.
“For whatever reason it’s coming along slowly,” Hughes said. “It’s kind of a helpless feeling.”
Here’s Hughes postgame.
Associated Press photo