Time and time again, Brian Cashman has referred to starting pitching as the “key to the kingdom.” It’s become his own personal of cliche, and the emphasis of his most high-profile offseason moves. But as the trade deadline passed a week ago, Cashman made no moves for additional pitching. Some of that was surely based on asking price, some of it on contractual obligations, and some of it on the faith that Andy Pettitte will be healthy next month. But it also seemed to be a show of confidence in the current rotation, especially tonight’s starter, Phil Hughes.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Hughes said. “I just try to do the best job I can every time. I’ve been pitching better lately, and we’ve been pitching overall pretty well, as well. Maybe there wasn’t anything too urgent that they felt like they needed, and they’re happy with the team we’re putting out there.”
Despite a sub-standard season, the Yankees trust CC Sabathia at the top of the rotation, and Hiroki Kuroda has been terrific as their No. 2. But it’s Hughes who’s really given the Yankees a reliable No. 3 starter up to this point. Since May 6 he’s gone 10-4 with a 3.24 ERA.
Here’s Hughes talking a little bit about what’s worked and what hasn’t worked this season.
What’s made you better than last year? Is this all about regained arm strength?
“That’s a big part of it. I’m trying to get back to that aggressive mentality coming out of the bullpen and in 2010. When I have better stuff, I feel a little bit more confident in doing that. I made some adjustments. I’ve been throwing a lot more changeups than I have at any point in my career. I feel like that’s been a big change for me. I’m trying to continue to improve my breaking ball and location. I haven’t had one start yet this year where I feel really, really good with everything, but I’m hoping that these last couple months and into the playoffs I put everything together the way I want to and continue to gain confidence from that.”
Do all of the home runs bother you?
“They always bother me, because they’re runs I would like to prevent. But if they’re solo homers, and they’re in spots where I have a big lead, or spots where I’m trying to be aggressive, or spots where I don’t have second thoughts about the pitch selection, then I can live with those ones. The hard part is you don’t want those to happen with guys on base. … (As a fly ball pitcher) it’s going to happen. I don’t throw a sinker and rely on good life and rise on my fastball. Fly balls come with that. Sometimes guys don’t absolutely crush a fly ball, and they go out in some places. But for the most part, I haven’t given up too many cheap ones this year, so I just live with that.”
Why the reverse-split success against lefties?
“I think I’ve just done a better job versus lefties, to where it looks like right handers are hitting me a lot better. Maybe they are a little bit. I’ve done a better job of throwing inside to lefties this year, and I need to do the opposite of that and throw inside to right handers a little more, which I haven’t done. And I think the addition of my changeup has been a big key to lefties. So maybe I haven’t been pitching as well to right handers, but I’ve been doing a better job to lefties.”
Associated Press photo