Phil Hughes has now made four starts since his abrupt return from the disabled list. There was that shaky debut against the Tigers, the brutal start against the Orioles, and now back-to-back starts of seven innings and two earned runs. Is he starting to feel like he’s finally ready after his shortened spring?
“I wouldn’t have come up in Detroit if they didn’t feel like I was ready,” Hughes said. “I certainly feel like I’ve made positive steps forward since then. I was ready then, I just didn’t execute that well against Detroit and obviously terribly against Baltimore. I had enough innings — even though they weren’t big league innings — in spring training to be ready. … I’ve been out of (spring training) for four starts. These games count whether you got a full spring training or not. The first two were tough. The next two were better. Hopefully that trend continues.”
Hughes is always something of a lightning rod. Some of it is deserved (he’s lacked consistency through his career), and some of it is not (he’s still held to enormous expectations that very, very few players actually fulfill). I’m sure plenty of folks were done with him after last night’s rocky first inning, but he turned it into a strong start that gave the Yankees a chance to come back.
“I thought he really made some good pitches in the first inning, I really did,” Joe Girardi said. “You think about it, he’s got second and third, nobody out, and he gives up one run and he’s in the heart of the order. So I thought he threw the ball extremely well. They became a little bit more aggressive which kept his pitch count down in the later innings. I thought his stuff was pretty good.”
The chances of Hughes winning over all of his detractors are slim to none, but everyone once in a while he has a game like last night that serves as a reminder of what he can be. Much of the fan base is still waiting for him to become the ace they were promised six years ago, but if he can pitch like he did last night, the Yankees will be more than happy.
“We pushed him pretty good (last night),” Girardi said. “What’d he throw, (32) pitches in the first inning? That can take something out of you. For him to give us 110 pitches in seven strong innings, that was impressive to me. But physically, he’s pretty good.”
Associated Press photo