Watching the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright throw in the 2006 NLCS made me think of something Yankees-related.
Mariano Rivera will be 38-years old by the end of next season. Would it make sense for the Yankees to use Philip Hughes in their bullpen next season, as a set-up man, with the hope that eventually he will replace Rivera as the next closer in the Bronx?
Hughes, while he’s been a starter to date, has the stuff to close – like Wainwright. Plus, doesn’t he help the team more if he’s a part of 45-55 wins (as a reliever) than if he’s a part of 15-25 wins (as a starter)?
Of course, there’s a couple of issues here. First, the Yankees need starters now and in the seasons to follow and Hughes would fill that need. Secondly, there’s always the strong chance that Joe Torre would ruin Hughes’ arm if he was used as a relief pitcher – by using him too often.
Still, this could be a way for Hughes to break in with the Yankees next year – by just coming into a game and pumping gas for an inning while dropping an occasion hook here and there. If handled properly, working out of the pen would be the way to ensure that Hughes’ arm his not abused (given his age) – assuming that Torre could be controlled.
Hughes could set-up for Mo in 2007 and 2008 and then be the new Yankees closer in 2009 (when Rivera should be ready to step down). Put it this way – who else is onboard now to replace Mariano when the time comes? J. Brent Cox? I’m not sure that Cox has the command of a Hughes – at least yet.
Young starter converted to reliever Hughes can be to Rivera what young starter converted to reliever Rivera was to former Yanks closer John Wetteland. If this worked then, why can’t it work again?