Tonight is kind of a strange start for Phil Hughes. He might be pitching for his spot in the rotation, but there’s no real benchmark he has to reach, and there’s nothing set in stone saying he’ll be bumped if he falters. His manager has supported him, but also acknowledged that there are other options.
As Hughes goes to the mound tonight for his fifth start since coming off the disabled list, there is simply this looming idea that the Yankees could make a change, and there’s the unmistakable presence of Ivan Nova just a few lockers away.
“I have pressure on myself,” Hughes said. “I don’t really think about the other stuff when I’m out there. There’s pressure to pitch well every five days, whatever the circumstances are, whether there are six guys in the rotation right now or not. It won’t be any different.”
Joe Girardi has acknowledged that he doesn’t plan on sticking with a six-man rotation. He said yesterday that no option is off the table, but he also seemed to give a vote of confidence to Hughes. At the very least, he gave an indication that Hughes will be given plenty of time to prove himself, something he earned last season.
“What we try not to do is we try not to look at things in a snapshot,” Girardi said. “You’ve got to look at things over the long haul and what you see. Sometimes people want immediate results, and sometimes they don’t get immediate results. Those are the tough decisions that we have to make.”
Hughes seems to be approaching the situation with his usual calm. His stuff hasn’t been his best these past four starts, but that’s to be expected, and he’s shown considerable improvement since April. Hughes believes the stuff will come — the velocity, the curveball, the cutter — but it’s a process, and he’s still going through it.
“It’s not like one game or one pitch is going to turn it around,” he said. “I need to have some success over the course of some starts, feel like I’m myself again, to get back that total confidence… I didn’t really expect to be at a certain plateau by this date or that date. If I can go out there, not have my best stuff and battle, pitch a good game, I’m going to take that over what the scoreboard says or anything else. I don’t really think I expected to be anywhere after a certain day, I just went out there and tried to do the best job I can.”
Here’s Hughes speaking before yesterday’s game.
Associated Press photo