"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice



Phil Hughes announced his presence with authority last night, working a 1-2-3 first inning that concluded with strikeouts of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, both swinging through fastballs. He then stranded two runners in the second and got out of a runners-on-the-corners, no-out jam in the third by striking out Jones and Markakis again, the latter in conjunction with Kevin Cash throwing out Brian Roberts stealing.

Meanwhile, the Yankees built a 5-0 lead against Jeremy Guthrie on a Johnny Damon walk and a Mark Teixeira double in the first, consecutive solo homers by Nick Swisher (his first at the new stadium), Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera leading off the second, and a pair of walks and an RBI single by Cano in the third.

Hughes gave two of those runs back in the fourth on a Melvin Mora single and a Ty Wigginton homer and another in the fifth on a solo shot by Jones, but while he didn’t cure his recent gopheritis, he did set a career high with nine strikeouts—eight of them swinging, most of them on fastballs, but three on curveballs—while walking just one.

Hughes threw 89 pitches through five innings and Joe Girardi decided to hand the 5-3 lead to Alfrede Aceves at that point. Ace pitched around a pair of singles for two scoreless frames and Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera combined for a scoreless eighth. Then the Yankees dropped a six-spot on Danys Baez and Jamie Walker, blowing the game open late just as they had the night before. Since he was warm and had thrown just three pitches in the eighth, Girardi left Rivera in to mop up in the ninth, which he did, but not before giving up a solo homer to dead center by rookie Nolan Reimold. Final score: 11-4 Yankees.

That’s eight straight wins by the Yanks, who are now just 2.5 games behind the Blue Jays (who lost another to the Red Sox) in the East.
Girardi said the team would likely make a decision on Wang (and thus Hughes) tomorrow, but the skipper was pleased with the progess Hughes has made in his last two starts, which at least bodes well for Hughes chances at a return engagement should he find himself starting for Scranton in five days.

Your turn, Joba . . .

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Game Recap

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1 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 12:56 am

another terrific post title! and excellent job on the back-to-back-to-back photos!

greight is NOT enough. nine is fine, but ten is better! : )

2 Rich   ~  May 21, 2009 1:03 am

As I have said, I want Hughes to remain in NY even if it means pitching out of the pen, as David Cone has suggested.

Although I'm happy about Hughes's progression in his last two starts, I don't understand why he is no longer the groundball pitcher that he appeared to be in Trenton a couple of seasons ago.

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 21, 2009 1:26 am

Rich, did you watch the video in the previous post?

And agreed on the groundball thing. I saw Hughes pitch in Trenton and loved the way he got batters to beat the ball into the ground when he wasn't wrecking them with fastballs and curves.

4 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  May 21, 2009 1:32 am

in a state of pythagorean bliss ~ greight post!

5 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 1:42 am

[4] +2. i'll take it. let's keep it going in that direction!

6 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 21, 2009 1:47 am

[5] Wazzup Elvin?? Didn't see the Blue Mitchell last night, but got a secret jazz-record-hunting-weapon to consult with so stay tuned..

+2 is nice. How about up to +10 tomorrow?

Big Papi on the board..if he rebounds the Sox will be tough..good thing Beckett is stinking up the joint this year, and the y MUST be worried about Lester.

7 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 1:55 am

[6] ha, i listened to an Elvin solo cd today - Puttin' It Together. it's a terrific BN album from the late 60's! i'm on a big Lee Morgan kick right now - same label, same era.

thanks for checkin' on the Blue Mitchell for me, much appreciated! i'm up to my eyeballs right now in more BN cd orders. on friday, i'm hoping to add 20+ titles - Jap jewel case versions...

i think the sox are gonna be tough no matter what. i'm glad we've got bruney back and hughes improving. i really hope Joba can get thru 6 tomorrow. our bats should greet Eaton as he should be treated. i hope Wang is effective when he returns and i can't wait to get Jorgie back and be firing on all cylinders. i think it's gonna be an interesting series against the Phils. they've got some dangerous lefties with power who are probably itching to visit the new smallyard in da bronx.

8 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 21, 2009 2:04 am

[7] Saw Elvin here a few years before he died, he still had it.

No excuses for not putting up at least 6 runs on Eaton!

Any Yankee pitcher who throws a strike to Ryan Howard this weekend should be fined $1000..each time. I fear he'll kill someone in the right-field seats otherwise..

9 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 2:14 am

[8] you're lucky! i never got to see him live in person. but i did get to see Ventor from Kreator last week!!! ; )

i think i'm more worried about Ibanez, at this time. he cracked his 14th tonight and is locked in. Chase & Ryno, are both doing well, powerwise, too. i like that Jayson Werth guy - i love power/speed players. hope he doesn't steal home on Andy saturday afternoon!!!

10 Rich   ~  May 21, 2009 2:31 am

[3] I hadn't until now, Cliff.

Thank you.

11 nemecizer   ~  May 21, 2009 4:36 am

On May 10th my youngest brother wrote "I think the Yankees are about to go on a tear". Man was he right. 8 in a row feels good and the pythag is getting healthier (though I would tend to throw out one or two of those Cleveland games as outliers).

Here's hoping we get 9 in a row tonight!

12 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 6:16 am

I got home in time to catch the ninth. The top was fun.

I was thinking, in the bottom, exactly what rbj said in the game thread: that Nolan Reimold has a good story to tell his grandchildren. It will sound like a tall tale, too. "Sure he was great kids, he was the greatest, the greatest that ever was... but I got 'im, yeah, I got 'im good." They won't believe him. But they could look it up.

13 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 7:33 am

I really hope today ends with Hughes still on the 25-man and either Veras or Albaledejo elsewhere. Hughes is stil rough around the edges, but he can contribute a lot in an Aceves like role (2-3 inning stints, twice per week). If the Yankees can get 8-12 innings of relieve work between Franchise and Ace, then they basically could rely on Coke for lefties, Bruney for the 8th and Mo for the 9th. Everyone else would be for low leverage situations. I also think such a set-up could eliminate the need for the 7th man...which means they could drop either Albaledejo/Veras or Tomko (or, ideally, have Melancon or Robertson take that 6th spot).

14 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 8:10 am


Holy, crap, I agree. Hughes has nothing left to prove in the minors. It's less than ideal for his development, especially in getting his innings up this year, but I think he needs to face MLB hitters consistently to continue to hone his craft. The occasional AAAA hitter just isn't the same thing. Keep him in the pen and with just one rule - no back-to-back days.

I'd be pleasantly surprised but I don't see the mediocre GM being so forward thinking (even as it's been a common way to develop pitchers). Then they'll come up with some lame excuse - like "He needs regular work" even as pitching every other day is regular work.

15 Shaun P.   ~  May 21, 2009 9:00 am

[14] "pitching every other day is regular work" - yes, for a reliever. Its one thing to use Hughes in the Aceves role, which I completely agree with. If Hughes stays in the bigs, he should never pitch less than 2 innings at a go - and ideally 3 (or more). Go back and look at Johan Santana's game log for 2003, when he started the year as a "long reliever". His appearances were frequently separated by 2 days, or 3 - sometimes more - not 1.

The only problem is, the Yanks already have some one in the Aceves role - Aceves - and I'm not sure there's any modern MLB manager who would properly use two long guys. Hughes getting pigeon-holed into short relief work would be a disaster, IMHO.

Given all this, I think the best thing is for Hughes to go back down and get his innings in. He needs them, so he can pitch in the rotation in Pettitte's spot next year.

16 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 9:06 am

[15] The "Aceves role" isn't a long man though....it's a late multi-inning role. With two such pitchers, you could rotate them and ensure the proper rest. With Joba, Wang and Pettitte more likely to give you 5-6 and Burnett and C.C. a good bet to give you 7+, you could essentially use Hughes/Acves to back up the first three and have Bruney/Mo back up the latter two. Obviously, there would be some cross over, but I think that blue print would yield the most successful Yankee bullpen.

17 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 9:54 am

Hughes is actually a tough call, and I think it would be fair for those arguing either way to agree with that. It is NOT lame to talk about regular work for a guy who IS supposed to be starting for us ... why doesn't Boston have their stud kid Buchholz in the bullpen? He has been alarmingly lights-out in AAA. Because they want him pitching 6+innings, not 2. (Yes, their major league bullpen has been excellent, but - surprise - so has ours last two weeks.)

I also disagree Hughes has 'nothing left to learn' in AAA at his age and with modest success in the Show. If he had nothing left to learn he'd be dealing with the Yanks, and he isn't, really. He's been ... okay-to-good, mostly. In Cleveland or Oakland or a lot of clubs he'd be getting the ball every 5th day with the big team. But we're deep, if Wang is all right, and 4 innings of relief a week (two days rest) is NOT ideal for his arm.

The flip side is he could be quite effective in that role for a whole year ... but that kills his innigns for NEXT year.

In short, I wouldn't blast Cashman and the brain trust for either decision, but I'd lean, right now, to AAA.

Anyone hear anything said by Girardi on Mo in the 9th last night?

18 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 10:08 am

@ 15, 16

I agree more with William, but I think the Yankees will be thinking more along the lines of Shaun. Aceves does seem to be a good fit for the role, but Hughes could still develop and get his work in as well.

@ 17

If he had nothing left to learn he’d be dealing with the Yanks, and he isn’t, really.

So using your logic, he's facing the same quality of hitters in AAA as in MLB?

Of course that's absurd. My point is he's already shown he can dominate people who are their way to, or never going to, the majors. The pressure to develop his secondary pitches will really only come from facing hitters where he needs to use them to get them out. He may try to develop those pitches in the minors but he'll never need to rely on them. Big difference.

One more point: Hughes can't start this year full-time any ways. He's never topped 150 innings and he hasn't even approached that in over two years. So sooner or later they're going to have to start seriously thinking about how they're going to control his innings this year.

He's already pitched 40 innings. So maybe he's good for another 80 - 100.

4 to 6 innings/week X 18 weeks = 72 to 108 innings.

19 Raf   ~  May 21, 2009 10:28 am

I pretty much agree with the sentiment that Hughes has nothing left to prove in the minors, he's going to have to take his lumps in the majors. There's no reason why he can't work out of the pen, especially considering that Alby & Tomko are on the roster.

Properly deployed, he will get his innings. Also, given his injury history, he may be better off working out of the pen, at least for the time being.

20 Shaun P.   ~  May 21, 2009 10:37 am

[16] In a theoretical world, I agree completely. That's exactly what the Yanks could and should do.

The best part about such a bullpen configuration - with Coke handling lefties - is that the Yanks could have a 5 man pen, and devote the two open spots to, say, Miranda and Duncan, who could become pinch-hitters extraordinaire, and would provide great cover for the lesser bats that occasionally play.

Shoot, if this was 1949, this is what Stengel (and every other MLB manager) would be doing.

Alas that its 2009! (In that regard only.) I just don't see Girardi, or any other current MLB manager, running his pen in that way. So, because Hughes needs his innings, its back to SWB methinks.

21 Yankster   ~  May 21, 2009 10:45 am

[1-18] Great discussion! There are legitimate reasons for both keeping Hughes in the pen and sending him down, as expressed above.

Not yet mentioned: The GM's expectations on Wang's (or any other member of the rotations') risk for failure.

I don't know how this plays out, whether the more Cash expects problems with the rotation, the more likely he is to send down Hughes keeping him on a regular schedule to bring back up in case of a problem? OR the less likely Cash thinks there will be problems with the rotation, the more he can afford to put Hughes in a Santana-like development process with only one or two spot starts for the rest of the year.

Wang (barely edging Joba) is my favorite Yankee pitcher, so I'm rooting for his success, but until his velocity gets up there, I've got to confess I'm really skeptical that he will be able to contribute even at the Hughes level for at least the next month or so. And Wang is not the guy for the playoffs either.

22 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 10:54 am

I dunno, Bum, 'completely dominating' is just what Buchholz is doing (era around 1) and the BoSox have starters with eras around 6. Guess they are even dumber than the Bombers dudes. Phil was very good in the minors, agreed ... but exactly why is it impossible for a bright, disciplined guy, well-coached to work on secondary pitches down there? And do you REALLY see the Yankees as a place to develop those - on-the-job training while we fight three teams for a TOUGH playoff spot? That was my point (it is better if you read carefully) about weaker teams ... in certain environments it is a LOT easier to get a guy exposure up here, and exposure while starting is far the best, for a proposed starter.

My general point was that this decision isn't a slam-dunk easy one, and you seem to be upping the rhetoric to suggest that any decision other than middle relief is brain dead. There ARE various ways to go, and some of the elements have to do with the player involved, and his future. 140 relief innings do NOT = 140 starter innings. You have to know that.

To repeat: my only point, and I'm out of this one, is that I can see arguments both ways. Period. Me, I enjoy watching the kid, I'll see him more in the Bronx than in AAA. But I am assuming they aren't deciding on that basis!

Someone raised the 'heralth' card, a la Joba ... I haven't seen that at all. Hughes's injury was his foot.

23 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 11:15 am

[21] Excellent point...the compromise solution may be to send Hughes down for two weeks and give Wang 3 starts. If all is well, you could then return Hughes to the bullpen. If all is not well, Hughes would return as a starter.

24 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 11:17 am

@ 21

That's a good point and one reason why they may just keep Hughes until Wang proves he's a safe bet again.

@ 22

but exactly why is it impossible for a bright, disciplined guy, well-coached to work on secondary pitches down there?

Sure, they can work on them. But the same thing is going to happen that's already happening with his primary pitches - they're not going to get hit. So what has he learned, exactly? In the majors almost every hitter belongs for a reason. And that reason is one Hughes has to learn from them - which pitches and will get hit, when, and by whom. The competition in AAA isn't able to teach him that.

Boston is making the same mistake with Buchholz. I thought exactly that when they signed Penny and Smoltz.

25 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 11:17 am

[22] This is definitely an issue with good points on both sides. I guess it comes down to what the Yankees think would benefit Hughes more: refining pitches or learning to pitch to major leaguers.

26 zack   ~  May 21, 2009 12:12 pm

I think if Hughes is really going to be the #5 starter next season, what they really need him to do is build up innings and work on his secondary pitches, two things the BP role won't allow him to do. Coming out of the BP he'll mostly be throwing his two + pitches, as he'll rarely see most batters more than once, even in 3 inning stints. Plus, even if he is pitching 3+ innings twice a week, thats around 115 innings, not really enough to reach his desired 170 or so.

If he is in the minors, he'll still be available for spot starts and can really work on mastering the cutter and change (boy i do wish he'd bust the slider back out, but I guess the mechanics of it are just too different?) and becoming a more complete pitcher with greater confidence.

He seems certainly capable of stepping into the #5 role and putting up an era around 4 next season (which is basically what he has done minus the bad B-more start). I really think its most beneficial for him now to log healthy innings every 5 days and master his secondary pitches...

27 Raf   ~  May 21, 2009 1:43 pm

Someone raised the ‘heralth’ card, a la Joba … I haven’t seen that at all. Hughes’s injury was his foot.

There is no medical definition for "injury prone" but we all know what it means. Repeated injuries usually to different parts of the body and those injuries generally tend to linger. It may be simply an unfortunate turn of events. It may be genetic. It may be that the player has not taken enough responsibility for his own body. There are many other variables you can take into account before labeling a player as injury-prone such as age, position or style of play. Phil Hughes has become the very definition for the simple fact that since he was taken in the 2004 draft, he has been injured at some point during 4 of those 5 seasons.Let's take a stroll down memory lane.

July 2004 - Phil makes his first start as a future Yankee. He's shut down with elbow stiffness the next day.
August 2004 - Phil breaks his toe running in the hallway of his hotel to answer his cell phone.
June 2005 - To the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.
2006 - A year to remember. Phil pitched 146 innings and avoided the DL.
May 2007 - That damn hamstring. We blamed Marty Miller.
May 2007 - Suffers a grade 3 ankle sprain during rehabilitation. Does anything scream injury prone like getting injured in rehab?
May 2008 - Stress fracture to his rib. Still a mystery as to when and why that happened.
May 2008 - Is nearsightedness an injury?

None of those injuries in a vacuum look suspicious or are cause for concern. But then you look at the entire picture. We all hope Phil comes back, becomes the pitcher he's supposed to be and puts the injury bug behind him but if I was a betting woman, I wouldn't touch that one. Historically, past injury is often the best precursor of future injury.

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