Eleven days ago ago, Phil Hughes was pulled in the third inning and had no room to second-guess the decision. He hadn’t “earned the trust to do that this year,” he said, and it was perfectly true. Eleven days ago, Hughes had a leash shorter than some pitchers in the Yankees bullpen, and that seemed to be exactly where he was heading.
Today, Hughes talked about trust again, but it was after he pitched into the seventh inning in what he said was “probably” his best start since 2010.
“When you kind of have that long leash, it makes you feel like you can be that workhorse type guy and go out there and have the trust of the manager and give us some length when we need it,” Hughes said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to go out there and not almost hit a wall at 100 pitches, kind of break through that wall and really put up a solid outing.”
With a fastball that was consistently hitting 94-95 mph on the stadium gun — even his last pitch was clocked at 95 — Hughes was sharp in his sixth start of the season, building on a solid outing his last time out. Outings like this, at a time like this, give a glimpse of why the Yankees keep giving Hughes chances in the rotation.
“This kid has a good arm, he really does,” Joe Girardi said. “And it comes down to, just like anyone else, to location, and today we saw the results.”
First time through the lineup, Hughes threw 33 pitches, 29 of which were fastballs. Second time and third times through the order, Hughes was just as effective with his offspeed pitches. He twice got Eric Hosmer to ground out on curveballs, and Girardi seemed most impressed by the changeup.
At a time when Hughes spot in the rotation seemed legitimately in jeopardy, he seemed to earn a little bit of the trust that was lacking just a few days ago.
“It’s a process,” Hughes said. “If I continue to pitch well and throw well, I’m sure I’ll gain more trust, and that’s what it’s all about is having the manager know that you can get out of those jams and know that you can still have a lot left in the tank after 100 pitches. The more I show that, the more I feel I’ll be able to go out there.”
• Brian Cashman said the Yankees “have not discussed” whether today was Andy Pettitte’s final minor league start before joining the big league rotation. “I’ll talk to Cash tomorrow or the next day and see where they feel he’s at, the people that watched him,” Girardi said. “… Our plan is, the guys are on turn. That’s the bottom line, so I’ll continue to put out the rotation as we go forward, but (Hughes) pitched a great game today.”
• Hughes on his changeup: “Last game I sort of, not abandoned it, but didn’t throw it as much. I was kind of a focus to maybe incorporate some cutters and some changeups and I threw some good ones when I really had my back up against the wall. That was a key time to throw those, and for the most part, the few that I threw I was happy with.”
• Hughes on his fastball: “It all starts with that pitch, and for the most part I was kind of nibbling a little bit in the early innings – just off the plate, just missing – and once I kind of found the plate and decided that I wasn’t going to necessarily worry about hitting the corners every time just be aggressive with it, and it was good from that point on.”
• On the decision to leave Hughes in to pitch the seventh when he started the inning with 103 pitches. “No hesitation,” Girardi said. “He was throwing the ball good. I basically had him going through the bottom of the order, then I had Boonie to face Dyson, so I felt good about it.”
• Robinson Cano doubled his season home run and RBI totals with one swing in the third inning. The grand slam was the eighth of his career. “Like I said yesterday, I feel good at the plate,” Cano said. “It’s just a matter of time until things turn around and start falling.”
• Alex Rodriguez also homered, his fifth of the season and his first extra-base hit since April 27. “For us to do what we want to do this year, Robbie and I hitting three and four, we’re going to have to do damage like that,” Rodriguez said. “Much better today.”
• In his second at-bat back from a strained hamstring, Nick Swisher hit his seventh home run of the season. “Just got a fastball up over the plate,” he said. “And it was good for me, confidence-wise, to take one of those really good swings, let it loose, and not worry about anything. I feel like after I did that, everything was perfect.”
• Swisher said he absolutely expects to be in right field on Tuesday. “I don’t like missing any time anyways,” he said. “For it to be something as little as this, maybe we took a couple more days than what we needed to, but hey man, it’s a long season, and you want to be out there every single day you can be.”
• Brett Gardner is flying to Rochester to begin a rehab assignment with the Triple-A team. He’ll play tomorrow and expects to play two or three games before returning to New York.
• Curtis Granderson’s third-inning single drove in the second Yankees run and gave him 1,000 hits for his career.
• Derek Jeter had two more hits including a leadoff double and a bunt single. He leads the majors with 48 hits this season and he’s hitting .397. This was his Major League-leading 16th multi-hit game.
• Let’s give the final word to Cano, who helped the Yankees end a rough four days in Kansas City on a high note. “That was good to see the whole lineup produce,” Cano sadi. “We got Swisher back and hit a homer. We’ve got A-Rod. Even Tex had some good swings, he just hit them right at people. That’s what you want. You want your whole team to be back. I know if everybody contributes, we’re going to do a lot of good things.”
Associated Press photos