Blog Entry

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

Posted on: April 15, 2010 10:42 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2010 9:21 am
NEW YORK -- So, how'd he look?

Before you ask, think about this: The Yankees won 103 games last year, and the guy in the fifth-starter slot got credit for exactly eight of them.

The point being, the Yankees don't need Phil Hughes to be great as the fifth starter. They do need him to develop him into a quality starting pitcher for sometime in the future.

Maybe that future is later this year, if one of the top four Yankee starters gets hurt, and they need to rely more heavily on the 23-year-old Hughes. Or maybe the future is 2011, if Javier Vazquez leaves as a free agent, or Andy Pettitte retires, and the Yankees don't want to count on a trade or on a free-agent marketplace already depleted by top pitchers signing contract extensions.

So how did Hughes do Thursday night, when he won his 2010 debut as the Yankees beat the Angels 6-2? Not great, in that he walked five in five innings-plus. Not bad at all, in that he gave up just two runs on three hits (and it would have been one run on two hits if manager Joe Girardi didn't strangely push him into the sixth inning).

Hughes barely used the changeup we heard so much about this spring, and instead seemed to fall in love with his cut fastball. And Girardi said he was thrilled with the performance.

But enough of the instant analysis, because if this really is about developing a starter for the future, the Yankees simply need to let Hughes develop.

They say they will.

"It's not like we're going to push the panic button if this start doesn't go OK," Girardi said Thursday afternoon. "This is a young man we believe is ready to do this and step into our rotation. He does have a chance to develop here, and get his starts.

"We expect him to pitch at a high level for us."

There are those who believe that Girardi's preference was to use Sergio Mitre as his fifth starter, with Hughes and Joba Chamberlain combining to set up Mariano Rivera in what would have been a monster back end of the bullpen. There are still scouts who believe that the Yankees would have been better off -- in 2010 -- with that setup.

But the decision was made to give Hughes the job, and that's fine. Now they just need to stick with him, live through inevitable growing pains, and let him develop.

Eventually, they'll need him to be more than the fifth starter. He doesn't need to be No. 1. They have CC Sabathia for that.

But remember that last year, Chamberlain began the season in the fifth spot. Then Chien-Ming Wang got hurt, and Chamberlain in effect moved up. And because the Yankees felt they couldn't count on him, they ended up going with just three starters in the postseason.

It worked for them, but in the new postseason schedule (with one fewer off day in the Championship Series), maybe it doesn't work. And maybe by that point, the Yankees need to be able to count on Hughes more than they need to count on him now.

Can Hughes be an effective starter? There are at least two reasons to believe that the answer is yes.

First, he was a successful starter in the minor leagues. Second, there's a chance that Hughes began to believe in himself as a big league pitcher because of his success in the bullpen last year. A half-season of late-inning relief seemed to help Zack Greinke learn to attack hitters, and some scouts believed the same could happen for Hughes.

"How he attacked hitters out of the bullpen [last year] was the way he attacked them as a starter [in the minors]," said Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland, who also had Hughes in the minor leagues.

Hughes was 31-8 in the minors, almost all as a starter. There's evidence he can do it, and reasons for the Yankees to give him a chance to do it.

He has one win already this year, but don't fret if it takes him a while to get many more.

Remember, the fifth starters had just eight wins last year.

And the Yankees still won 103 games.

Category: MLB

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:58 am

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

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Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: December 24, 2011 3:18 am

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 5, 2011 9:07 pm

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: December 4, 2011 2:24 am

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 3, 2011 8:45 pm

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

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Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 22, 2011 12:59 pm
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Since: Oct 7, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 2:12 am

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

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Since: Dec 4, 2007
Posted on: April 16, 2010 2:11 pm

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

Does this guy Knobler even write about anything that doesn't pertain to the Yankess or Red Sox? He should be working for another network, who thinks it's imperative that every game between the two captivates the entire country and belongs on National TV.

Since: Nov 30, 2009
Posted on: April 16, 2010 11:27 am

With Hughes, it's about development -- for now

Couldn't you say this with every young pitcher in MLB?  They all need development

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: April 16, 2010 8:20 am

With Yanks' Hughes, it's about development

I agree with point about Hughes learning to pitch last year out of the bullpen. He was constantly attacking hitters, challenging them. I believe if he takes the same approach as a starter he will develop into the top of the rotation pitcher the Yankees believe he can be. I really like his repetoire on the mound. He brings a certain amount of poise that often isn't displayed by young pitchers. I believe that he can be an effective starter for many years in the pinstripes.

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