Phil Hughes isn’t breaking new ground when he talks about keeping it simple. He talks about not thinking too much about the big picture, controling the things he can control, and taking everything one step at a time. It’s cliche, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
So what was today’s step?
“Probably the changeup,” he said. “I really hadn’t gotten a chance to throw as many changeups as I want. It seems like a lot of quick swings this spring so far, and you don’t necessarily get to have those drawn-out counts. I seemed to have a few of those today where I could really incorporate my changeup. I threw some 3-2 changeups and things like that. If I really think about the one thing that I really took a step forward with today, it was probably the changeup.”
Hughes went to his changeup for two of his three strikeouts, including his strikeout of Matt Joyce two innings after Joyce had homered on a first-pitch cutter. Hughes guessed that he went to the changeup 15 times today.
“It was very good,” Russell Martin said. “He wasn’t as consistent early on with it, but as the game went along it was getting better and better. He got in some crucial situations and he made some good pitches. … I think he’s just getting confidence the more he throws it.”
We could all go back several years to read several articles about the development of Hughes’ changeup, and we could look at any number of Michael Pineda stories written this spring to read about the importance of that pitch for a starting pitcher. Ultimately, for Hughes, the development of the changeup isn’t anything new, it’s just the latest in a series of steps this spring.
“It seems like (last spring) was so long ago, to think back on how I was feeling,” he said. “I know that (the ball’s) coming out better than it was. For me that’s kind of one building block of what I need to do. The changeup needs to come along and the cutter and everything else, but physically I feel better.”
• Obviously Joe Girardi was in Port Charlotte and not in Tampa, but he said reports were positive about Derek Jeter getting through today’s scheduled workout. THe plan is still to have Jeter go through one more full workout tomorrow and then play Friday.
• Girardi is not planning to watch CC Sabathia pitch at the minor league complex tomorrow. There’s really nothing he needs to see there. He said he’s pretty sure Sabathia’s going to make the team. “I think he might even start Opening Day,” Girardi said.
• Chris Dickerson made a nice throw from right field that should have been enough to get Carlos Pena out at third, but the ball got to the bag on a short hop and Alex Rodriguez didn’t really have a chance to make the play. It went down as an error on Dickerson because a runner advanced, but it was really a nice throw.
• Another day, another impressive performance by Justin Maxwell. Today he was 1-for-2 with two runs scored and the go-ahead double in the ninth inning. He’s hitting .435 this spring. Still not sure the Yankees will find a spot for him on the roster (unless this Swisher injury is worse than expected).
• Speaking of impressive, Clay Rapada pitched another hitless inning, this time with two strikeouts. He’s been awfully good this spring, especially against lefties. He struck out two lefties today, and they were pretty good lefties: Luke Scott and Carlos Pena. Those would be exactly the kind of guys Rapada would have to face in the regular season.
• Cesar Cabral also looked pretty good today. “After he gives up the double and the balk, he settled down nicely to get a couple strikeouts and get out of the inning,” Girardi siad. “That was good stuff.”
• No real surprise that Matt Joyce homered off Hughes today. Joyce is a career .400/.500/1.100 hitter against Hughes. “He needs to get traded to the National League or something so I don’t see him as much,” Hughes said. “I’d rather get those out of the way now.”
• Someone asked Hughes whether he’d be happy to have a roster spot locked up and defined year after year. “That would be nice,” he said. “I’ll take a 10-year contract, too.”
Associated Press photos