Phil Hughes said he thought this was going to be a good start. His stuff was good in the bullpen, he looked pretty sharp in the first two innings, and he opened the third inning with a strikeout. But things got out of hand in a hurry and when six of the next seven batters reached base — two of them hit by pitches — Hughes was finished. He’d lasted just two and a two-thirds of an inning, but even he couldn’t argue with the decision to make a change.
“I haven’t really earned the trust to (stay in the game),” he said.
Hughes was the Yankees best starter this spring, but he’s lost three of his first four starts this season. Russell Martin said there are times he hasn’t look comfortable on the mound, then Martin made a not-so-flattering comparison.
“(Hughes) is guy who has tremendous confidence in his fastball,” Martin said. “For him to be successful, he’s got to locate. A.J. had the same problem every once in a while. He’d get into a hitter’s count — he’s confident in his fastball as well — it’s just when you leave one over the middle of the plate, especially those 3, 4, 5 guys, they’re not going to miss it. They’ve got a tremendous lineup. You’ve got to be able to pitch them tough. You’ve got to be able to pitch them backwards. Even when we tried to pitch them backwards, they were still on it.”
Joe Girardi said the Yankees are committed to keeping Hughes in the rotation. With Michael Pineda lost for the season and Andy Pettitte at least two minor league starts away from the big leagues, the Yankees have little choice but to show some patience. Hughes isn’t the only starter struggling.
“We believe he can do it, and I know he believes he can do it,” Girardi said. “But right now, sometimes the ball’s running back a little, he’s leaving the curveball up, the cutter’s sometimes not getting to where he wants to so it is frustrating. But you’ve got to keep working at it.”
• Andy Pettitte allowed four runs — three earned — through five innings in Trenton. He struck out three, walked one and allowed seven hits. “I don’t feel the strength is there yet,” Pettitte said afterward. “… I was a little disappointed in my command.”
• From my good friend Mike Ashmore: “(Pettitte) was going to go a minimum of two starts after this outing regardless,” Brian Cashman said. “He went in here knowing that this wasn’t a situation where he’d be pulled out of here. Even if I lost every starter in our rotation in New York right now, he wouldn’t be coming to New York to replace anybody after this outing.”
• Hughes said tonight’s problem wasn’t particularly complicated or hard to figure out. He left too many balls over the middle of the plate: “I’d throw a good fastball on an 0-0 count, but that doesn’t really get you anything,” he said. “I have to continue to make good pitches all the way through the at-bat. It’s hanging curveballs, fastballs out over the plate. It’s pretty much everything.”
• Hughes showed some emotion when he came off the mound in the third, but he said it was all directed at himself, not at Girardi or the umpire. “Absolutely at myself,” Hughes said. “It’s been frustrating. It’s been disappointing these first starts. Something’s got to change. A little too much frustration probably came out physically. I try not to do that, but sometimes it gets to be too much.”
• Before today’s outing, Hughes had never allowed a run in 15.1 innings at this ballpark.
• Girardi on the decision to bring Clay Rapada into the game in the third inning. “I had a chance to bring in a lefty to face a lefty, knowing that I had another lefty later on in the game and believing that Ron Washington wouldn’t pinch-hit that early. So I took a chance, it worked, and unfortunately we weren’t able to shut them down the rest of the way.”
• Girardi said tomorrow’s off day also played a role in his decision to pull Hughes after just 2.2 innings. “Knowing that I wasn’t going to need to use anyone, and there’s some guys that hadn’t pitched in a while,” Girardi said. “Soriano hadn’t pitched in a while. I knew that I could do that, try to keep it close, see if our offense could catch up.”
• The Yankees offense couldn’t catch up, but Derek Jeter did get two more hits to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. That’s the longest in the American League this season. Jeter has 17 hits in his past 34 at-bats.
• Raul Ibanez was 2-for-4 with an RBI double and his third home run of the season. That led to my favorite Tweet of the night from my good buddy Dan Barbarisi: “Raul Ibanez has 3 home runs this year. From my estimations, they have traveled a total of 4,822 feet.” It’s true, when Ibanez gets hold of one, he crushes it.
• The Rangers were using nothing but relievers tonight, beginning with a spot start from Scott Feldman, but the Yankees couldn’t get anything going against five different bullpen arms. “Sometimes that can be difficult because you don’t see the same guy twice very often,” Girardi said. “You get a different look every at-bat. Sometimes that can be harder.”
• Martin always has a way of bring unexpected perspective to things: “I’ve got confidence in Phil,” he said. “I know he’s got the stuff to do it. He’s tough mentally. I don’t think his start’s as bad as mine, and I’m not too worried, so I don’t think he is either.”
Associated Press photo