Surprising to see Phil Hughes last only an inning and a third today — he missed some spots, which hurt him — but he was consistently hitting 93 mph, a strong early indication that his arm strength is back. And really, that’s as important as anything at this point.
“It was good to see,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “He just ran out of pitches because we’re going to be a little bit careful with him, but the arm strength is there. The location was not good, but that should get better with mound time… I think if the arm strength is there, you know what he’s going to bring to the table. Now it’s a question of just getting out there enough to locate pitches and mix the other pitches in as he sees fit.”
Hughes was similarly satisfied, and said he’s trusting the coaches to look at more than results at this point. Yes, he would have liked to have gotten through two innings, and yes, he would have liked to have kept those runners off base. But physically, today was a positive step.
“I felt good, actually,” Hughes said. “You never want to see runs scored and stuff like that, but from a physical standpoint I felt pretty good for the first time out. I was having a little trouble keeping the ball down, but I was probably a little anxious.”
Before Hughes found out he’d reached 93 mph pretty steadily, he was asked what he’d like his velocity to be.
“100 would be nice,” he said. “To be successful, 92, 93 would be nice. Obviously the first time in spring I’m not expecting 100 percent, in-season velocity. Just to have some life on the fastball, see some swings and misses, some late foul balls maybe, would be nice. That would be a good thing for me right now.”
Francisco Cervelli said Hughes’ ball was “jumping.” Hughes said it was coming out of his hand good, which is pretty much the opposite of what he was saying a year ago.
“I’m coming out trying to throw as well as I can,” Hughes said. “If that’s competing, then sure, I think about it. I’m competing against the (other) team. I’m competing against guys trying to make this team. So that’s spring training. I’ve done it before. It’s one of those things that’s always there and sometimes it’s a little more difficult when you’re not completely 100 percent. Personally, I always feel like I’m competing, whether I am or not. You never want to pitch poorly and give up runs in spring training, it doesn’t feel good. You want to go home and feel happy about yourself.”
Associated Press photo