Edinson Volquez was once considered, by some, to be among the best pitching prospects in baseball. He had a cup of coffee with the Texas Rangers in 2005 – at the age of 21. And, in 2006, the Rangers called him up in August and gave him a regular turn in the rotation for the last two months of the season. That season, then 22, Volquez got banged around in 8 starts. Here’s more on that from a report in Baseball America that was published on October 6, 2006:
Here’s what top prospect Edinson Volquez learned during his eight-week audition in the Rangers rotation: He may be a prospect, but he’s still not a big leaguer.
If the numbers didn’t spell out the story (1-10, 9.20 in 14 appearances) then the Rangers did it letter-by-letter during a summit meeting with the 23-year-old righthander during the final week of the season.
“I think he knows the way he has pitched here is not going to be good enough,” Buck Showalter said. “The world is full of guys who have failed up here some. At some point, the good ones will grasp it. I think he will grasp it.”
The Rangers also laid out on offseason work plan they hope will accelerate Volquez’ comprehension of the problem and eventually his performance.
The organization wants Volquez to stop by instructional league for a couple of weeks to continue working on fastball command. In addition, the Rangers want him to slide over on the rubber toward the first base side to create more of an angle for his pitches. Even his best stuff was getting fouled off by hitters because they had too much of a look at his delivery. And finally, they want him to hold runners better.
The next season, in 2007, the Rangers had Volquez head back to the minors to work on his craft. He spent time in A-Ball (7 starts), Double-A (11 starts), and Triple-A (8 starts). In Triple-A, that season, he was awesome. In 8 starts he had an ERA of 1.41 and a WHIP of 0.90 – allowing just 25 hits in 51 innings pitched.
Last December, the Rangers traded Volquez to the Reds. And, this season, pitching in the majors for the Cincinnati Reds, Edinson Volquez has been lights-out and the talk of baseball.
Like Volquez, the Yankees Phil Hughes had his first taste of the big leagues at age 21 (last year). And, like Volquez in 2006, as a 22-year old (in baseball years), Hughes has been getting banged around this season. Here are the numbers to compare the two (with Hughes’ numbers being to date):
Pitcher GS IP H BB SO ERA ERA+ Volquez '06 8 33.3 52 17 15 7.29 63 Hughes '08 6 22.0 34 13 13 9.00 47
What was said about Edinson Volquez after 2006 could also be said now about Phil Hughes.
I think he knows the way he has pitched here is not going to be good enough. The world is full of guys who have failed up here some. At some point, the good ones will grasp it. I think he will grasp it.
The Rangers wanted Volquez to work on command of his fastball. It’s the same issue now for Hughes.
In the YES post-game last night, Joe Girardi, speaking of Hughes, said things along the lines of him “missing location again” and having “balls in the middle of the plate” being “hit hard.” Girardi said that Hughes was “rushing” and “trying to do too much.” But, Girardi added that “bottom line” (for Hughes) “it comes down to location.”
Perhaps it’s time for the Yankees to learn from the Volquez lesson? Send Hughes back down to the minors and leave him there for the rest of the season.
Do you know how many Triple-A starts Phil Hughes has made in his life? Five. Yes, just five starts.
Edinson Volquez had 21 starts at Triple-A before he was called up at the end of 2006. (And, he tacked on another 11 in 2007.)
Why not give Phil Hughes another 25 starts at Triple-A? Perhaps that will help him learn his craft the way that Edinson Volquez learned his (in 30+ starts at that level)? And, then, maybe next year, at the big league level, we’ll see Phil Hughes doing some of the things that we see Edinson Volquez doing this season.
The Yankees truly need to consider making this move with Hughes now. Just like shooting an arrow, you need to pull back before you can launch forward. And, now is the time to pull back on Hughes. If you don’t believe this to be true, then you’re ignoring all the feedback (in terms of reports and stats) that we have on Hughes now. The need for this move is obvious. Let’s hope the Yankees realize it.