My first memory of Phil Hughes comes from my first year covering the Yankees minor league system. Hughes was the biggest prospect in the organization — and one of the biggest in the game — and although he didn’t know it at the time, he was a few months from his big league debut. I remember asking Hughes to tell me the craziest thing he’d heard about himself.
He said he’d just heard a comparison to Roger Clemens, and he was laughing about it.
Hughes has always been that kind of guy. He’s laid back and quick to laugh, and he’s always been easy to deal with. He was easy to deal with when he was a massive prospect in Triple-A. He was easy to deal with when he was a Major League all-star. He was easy to deal with when things fell apart in the first half of last season.
But behind that laid back attitude, there’s always been a sense that Hughes cares about his production. I’ve seen hot-shot prospects who thought it didn’t matter when they struggled, because they thought opportunities would be infinite. Hughes has never been that way. When he struggles, you can sense his disappointment. He might do a good job of dealing with that disappointment, but the disappointment is certainly there.
You get a sense of that in Mark Feinsand’s story in today’s Daily News.
“I’m at a point where the patience is running out,” Hughes said. “I’m not a prospect anymore, and I’m not 21 years old anymore. You’re gauged on what kind of year you had, not what you’re capable of doing.”
After an up-and-down season, Hughes has committed himself to getting in better shape this offseason. He’s also started his offseason throwing program a month earlier than usual.
“I’m certainly not at the point in my career where I can come in and go through the motions, and if I give up eight runs in an outing, it’s all good because it’s spring training,” Hughes said. “For me, coming off a bad season, I’m trying to do as much as I can to make sure that I’m ready to go when spring training rolls around.”
Associated Press photo