Phil Hughes has pitched at Rangers Ballpark three times. Through 15.1 innings, he’s allowed three hits and no runs. He’s struck out 13. This isn’t always a friendly park, but it’s been good to Hughes ever since he first set foot in the place.*
Not that it means much against guys like Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.
“They’re a pretty good lineup,” Hughes said yesterday. “So past success really doesn’t mean anything. I just have to focus on what I can do tomorrow to put the best foot forward and give us a win going into the off day.”
Last time Hughes pitched, he was awful for an inning, then he settled in. A four-run first inning was immediately followed by four scoreless, and in so many ways, that’s Hughes. He can be terrific through extended stretches, but there are moments when it seems to fall apart. Spring training was one of the high points. His first three starts — or first two and a half starts, if you want to look at it that way — have been struggles.
“I felt really good with my stuff in spring,” he said. “Coming into this year, it hasn’t gone exactly the way I would have liked this far. There’s still a lot of season to turn that around, and I still feel good with my stuff. That’s encouraging. I’ll look to get a good one (tonight) and hopefully build off that.”
For a guy who’s spent a lot of time the past few years talking about the development of a changeup and cutter, sometimes “build off that” means building off the pitches that got him here in the first place. Hughes will always be a fastball pitcher with a curveball as his primary offspeed weapon. That combination has worked in the past, and if Hughes is at his best, that combination can work again in a ballpark where he’s had success.
“Those (other) pitches are important, especially the changeup and cutter,” Hughes said. “They’re all part of it because they have a time and place. It’s just a matter of not getting away from my game plan which is attacking with my fastball, curveballs when I need it, and then everything else kind of falls into that. I don’t want to pitch backwards. It’s part of it, trying to find a good game plan and making good selections. … Top to bottom (the Rangers) have a lot of power, some speed guys that get on base. The pressure’s never really off. You cant really take any breaks out there. You have to keep the pedal down and stay aggressive and try to get quick outs.”
* Except for the whole hamstring injury thing
Associated Press photo