• Phil Hughes Time Has Come

    Posted by on July 1st, 2009 · Comments (13)

    Some thoughts on Phil Hughes, working out of the bullpen, via Peter Abraham today -

    Armed with the knowledge that he will be in the game for only an inning or two, [Phil] Hughes is throwing his fastball as hard as he did when he first came to the majors.

    “I feel like I have more control, my stuff plays up a little bit,” Hughes said. “It feels like a good fit for me. Who’s to say what the future will be? Maybe this is what I do for the rest of my career.”

    That is not what the Yankees hope, however. They see Hughes as a starter down the road – perhaps this season if the need arises. But for now, he has been a welcome addition to a bullpen badly in need of help.

    “He is a full-fledged reliever now. I won’t hesitate to bring him in in any situation at this point,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We still consider him a starter, but right now he’s filling a void for us.”

    General manager Brian Cashman feels the same way. With 37-year-old Andy Pettitte on a year-to-year basis, Hughes is next in line to join the rotation. But that is an issue for next season.

    “I can’t look Mariano Rivera in the face and say, ‘I’ve weakened your bullpen for the future.’ It’s a balancing act and it’s a tough one,” Cashman said. “It’s hard. The short-term goal is you have to win as many games as you can to get into the postseason. If you do that, the next goal comes in line. In Phil’s case, that’s to get some innings. There’s a collision there you have to deal with.”

    Girardi said he is open to the idea of using Hughes for multiple innings, a common approach by teams developing young pitchers.

    “I’m not hesitant to do that with him. I think he’s very capable of being a two-inning reliever, a three-inning reliever for us,” the manager said. “I won’t do that necessarily to build up his innings, I’ll do it because I believe he can do it and do it well.”

    Here’s some up-to-date stats for you…

    Phil Hughes, in his big league career, as a starting pitcher:

    28 Games, 621 Batters Faced, an Opp BA/OBA/SLG line of .265/.341/.436, and a SO/BB Ratio of 1.90

    Phil Hughes, this season with the Yankees, as a relief pitcher:

    8 Games, 47 Batters Faced, an Opp BA/OBA/SLG line of .114/.170/.227, and a SO/BB Ratio of 5.33

    Granted, the latter is a small sample size. Nonetheless, it looks like, by working out of the pen, Hughes has taken his performance to a higher level.

    Now, as the regular readers of this blog are aware, I was never a fan of Phil Hughes the starting pitcher. I thought that his fastball was less than advertised and short. I thought that his tertiary pitch was inconsistent and average at best. And, worse, I thought that his mound presence was a cross between “deer caught in the headlights” and Blane McDonnagh-like pampered prospect posing.

    However, again, albeit via a small sample size, I am loving what I am seeing out of Phil Hughes the relief pitcher. He’s letting it all out and throwing high-octane gas. And, working out of the pen, there’s no need to feature a third pitch – his heater and curve are more than enough. Plus, he’s throwing his pitches with conviction – with a look on his mug that says: “OK, go ahead, try and hit this!”

    This all said, I think it’s time for the Yankees to start using Phil Hughes exactly how Mariano Rivera was used in 1996. Have Hughes set up for the closer. Make the 8th inning his inning. In fact, just like Rivera was used in ’96, have Hughes pitch the 7th and 8th innings of games, where needed, to get to your closer.

    At the least, try it and see how Phil does with it.

    The Rivera and Wetteland combo was one huge reason why the Yankees won in 1996. Why not see if the Hughes and Rivera tag-team can do the same for New York in 2009?

    Comments on Phil Hughes Time Has Come

    1. yagottagotomo1
      July 1st, 2009 | 11:31 am

      Totally agree. He needs to be a starter long term, but if they are going to use him out of the bullpen, the restraints need to be off. That way he can get some more innings and help the team as a “relief ace.” I actually do not want them to give him the 8th inning role. I prefer that they use him at any point for high leverage situations, and then leave him in the game for up to two innings if he is effective.

    2. July 1st, 2009 | 11:33 am

      All of this has happened before, and unfortunately all of this will apparently happen again.

    3. Pat F
      July 1st, 2009 | 11:34 am

      small sample sizes on both counts, just very small with one. phil needs to get more of a chance to start, but if that chance can’t be right now and they think this won’t stunt his growth as a starter, he’s certainly a huge asset out of the pen. i’m concerned that this will have some sort of negative impact at some point, similarly to the way i have not liked joba being yoked back and forth between the rotation and the pen, but what do i know. for now, he certainly looks outstanding in the pen and i’m enjoying that. agree that if he’s there, he needs to really be there. no baby gloves. 8th and maybe even 7th are his.

    4. MJ
      July 1st, 2009 | 11:35 am

      I still believe that Hughes can be a starter in this league and I hope the team doesn’t pull the plug on that idea (or give into the same mania that has surrounded Joba’s role as a starter vs. a reliever).

      That being said, I agree 100% that the Yanks should deploy Hughes as they did Rivera in 1996. Not only will putting him in for two innings at a time get him the work and innings he needs to stay on course for, potentially, a 180 inning season in 2010, but it also deepens the Yankee bullpen by putting Aceves, Coke, Bruney, Robertson, and Tomko in a position to share the 5th and 6th inning duties.

      I love the idea of using Hughes in front of Rivera and, as I said in last night’s game recap thread, I was upset at Girardi for not letting Hughes have first crack at the 8th inning after doing so well in the 7th.

    5. July 1st, 2009 | 11:36 am

      Which isn’t to say Steve and Yagottagotomo are wrong about using Hughes for multiple innings for as long as he is coming out of the pen. By all means, Yankees, do that.

    6. Corey
      July 1st, 2009 | 12:13 pm

      Pat F wrote:

      small sample sizes on both counts, just very small with one. phil needs to get more of a chance to start, but if that chance can’t be right now and they think this won’t stunt his growth as a starter, he’s certainly a huge asset out of the pen. i’m concerned that this will have some sort of negative impact at some point, similarly to the way i have not liked joba being yoked back and forth between the rotation and the pen, but what do i know. for now, he certainly looks outstanding in the pen and i’m enjoying that. agree that if he’s there, he needs to really be there. no baby gloves. 8th and maybe even 7th are his.

      sure sample size…but…if you watch hughes pitch as a starter and then as a reliever, its like your not even watching the same guy. IF hughes shows the ability to be an effective starter, then sure make him a starter. But, he fills a huge roll this year and you gotta keep him in there…at least for this year. I trust hughes more then bruney, or anyone else in that pen for that matter.

      Makes ya wonder what kind of reliever kennedy could become when hes back from his devastating ailment.

    7. thenewguy
      July 1st, 2009 | 12:13 pm

      The Rivera and Wetteland combo was one huge reason why the Yankees won in 1996. Why not see if the Hughes and Rivera tag-team can do the same for New York in 2009?
      —————

      Be careful, Steve. It’s this kind of talk that will never allow the “Joba-to-the-bullpen” crowd to die. I agree with the rest of what you have to say, however.

    8. Pat F
      July 1st, 2009 | 12:26 pm

      Corey wrote:

      Pat F wrote:
      small sample sizes on both counts, just very small with one. phil needs to get more of a chance to start, but if that chance can’t be right now and they think this won’t stunt his growth as a starter, he’s certainly a huge asset out of the pen. i’m concerned that this will have some sort of negative impact at some point, similarly to the way i have not liked joba being yoked back and forth between the rotation and the pen, but what do i know. for now, he certainly looks outstanding in the pen and i’m enjoying that. agree that if he’s there, he needs to really be there. no baby gloves. 8th and maybe even 7th are his.
      sure sample size…but…if you watch hughes pitch as a starter and then as a reliever, its like your not even watching the same guy. IF hughes shows the ability to be an effective starter, then sure make him a starter. But, he fills a huge roll this year and you gotta keep him in there…at least for this year. I trust hughes more then bruney, or anyone else in that pen for that matter.
      Makes ya wonder what kind of reliever kennedy could become when hes back from his devastating ailment.

      yes and no. hughes has never gotten a chance to start consistently, with no more than 11 consecutive starts in any given season. sure he looks different now than he did *most* of the time as a starter, but he has also shown flashes of what he’s showing as a reliever as a starter. now he’s just doing it consistently as a reliever. but there is little, if any, evidence that he can’t do it as a starter to. this may just be when it all happened to come together again for him, and was going to happen starting or relieving. i do agree with you that he still has to prove himself as a starter in order to be kept in that role and not explored in other roles. i just hope he gets that chance.

    9. Corey
      July 1st, 2009 | 1:05 pm

      @ Pat F:
      i don’t agree, i’ve never, not even that night in texas, seen hughes throw like hes throwing now. If he could do that as a starter, i’d be ecstatic. I’d love him to be a starting pitcher if he could throw like he’s throwing right now, I’m just not convinced he can. I’d give him other shots though, i’m not gonna francessa this situation even though it sounds like i am. This is the first time I’m actually excited about Hughes.

    10. Pat F
      July 1st, 2009 | 2:24 pm

      i definitley see what you’re saying. but it’s important to remember most people are going to get the same boost in stuff that hughes has gotten as a reliever. it’s easier to air it out for an inning. so the question isn’t really can he do what he’s doing now as a starter, because the answer is he probably can’t, and few could maintain what they can do for one inning over 6+. the question is can the stuff he has a starter be enough to be a successful starter. i think it can. and that’s what i was saying i’ve seen signs of. game 3 of the alcs stands out more than anything (i know it was a relief apperance, but he went nearly 4 innings) as well as the two texas performances, the 9 k vs. baltimore, etc. it certainly hasn’t been wildly impressive, but enough that i think he deserves a bigtime chance to see if it can happen. again, i’m not saying i know for sure that hughes can be a starter, and maybe he is fit for the pen long-term. i’m just saying i personally have seen more than enough that warrants us giving it a serious look, and we certainly have not done that yet to date. give him a full season at this level, maybe two or three, like the red sox did lester, to work through things and get comfortable, and then let’s see what we have. if not, he can always go back to doing what he’s doing right now. it’s not easy, but it takes extreme patience, and again lester is a perfect example. 4.76 era, 4.57 era then boom 210.1 innings and a 3.21.

    11. Corey
      July 1st, 2009 | 2:33 pm

      @ Pat F:
      to be fair, lester has better stuff and is left handed, but i get your point. I guess time will tell.

    12. July 1st, 2009 | 10:35 pm

      [...] WasWatching.com brings up a good point about using Hughes similar to the way the Yankees used Mariano Rivera in 1996. Have Hughes set up for the closer. Make the 8th inning his inning. In fact, just like Rivera was used in ‘96, have Hughes pitch the 7th and 8th innings of games, where needed, to get to your closer. [...]

    13. July 17th, 2009 | 10:57 pm

      [...] the Yankees another quality start. Nice job. And, speaking of Yankees pitchers, it’s great to see Phil Hughes used properly – and excel at [...]

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