You’d think Phil Hughes would be at least a little bit curious. Tonight he’ll make his first Major League start since April 13, and he was so bad back then that he couldn’t pitch out of the fifth inning or maintain a fastball velocity beyond the upper-80s. He has a 13.94 ERA for crying out loud.
But this is Phil Hughes we’re talking about. If he’s worried or bothered or uncertain, he won’t show it.
“I know it’ll be good,” Hughes said. “I know my stuff is there, I just have to execute pitches. I know if I do that, I’ll be fine. I’m not going out there with any wonder or curiosity or doubt. I’m just going out trying to execute every pitch I can.”
Hughes’ velocity returned during his three-start rehab assignment through Staten Island and Trenton. His command was good enough last week that the Yankees decided another rehab outing was pointless.
“The difference is like night and day,” Hughes said. “The way the ball’s coming out of my hand now, I’m actually getting swings and misses. I don’t exactly know what went wrong, but I know something went wrong, so now that it’s fixed. I’m just happy to have my stuff back and to be able to go out there and compete.”
Hughes said he hasn’t questioned those first three starts. He was told shoulder inflammation was to blame. He was given a cortisone shot and a few weeks of rest, and now the arm strength is back. That’s all he needs to know.
“It’s not like I’m towards the end of my career,” he said. “I knew I have a few good years left in me. I figured it didn’t just go away, that something had to be up. That’s why I went and got it checked out. And ever since I took that rest, and the cortisone, it’s been a different story. There was never really a point where I felt like it was gone for good. It was certainly disheartening to have to go through that and not know what’s going on, but I don’t think there was ever a point where I doubted it was ever going to come back.”
Of course, just because Hughes isn’t curious doesn’t mean the rest of the Yankees aren’t a little curious to see how far he’s come. Joe Girardi’s read the reports, but tonight will be his first time seeing it for himself.
“I sure am (curious),” Girardi said. “I’m curious to see him look like he did last year.”