"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Texas Hold ‘Em

Phil Hughes delivers a Memorial Day win (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Phil Hughes likes pitching in Arlington, Texas. Hughes made his second major league start in Arlington on May 1, 2007 and threw 6 1/3 hitless innings before tearing his left hamstring and being forced to leave the game. Yesterday, he returned to Arlington to pitch a Memorial Day matinee and once again dominated a powerful Rangers’ lineup.

The Yankees spotted Hughes two runs in the top of the first on doubles by Derek Jeter (taking a half-day off at DH) and Mark Teixeira and infield singles by Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez. Hughes responded with a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning. If there was a turning point in the game, which ended in an 11-1 Yankee route, it came in the bottom of the second. Nelson Cruz led off with a first-pitch double, after which Hughes hit Hank Blalock with a 1-1- pitch to put two men on with none out. Hughes then fell behind Marlon Byrd 3-0, but rallied to strike him out on a generous call on a fastball low and away. He followed that by striking out Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden on curveballs to strand both runners. The Yankees responded in the top of the third by pushing across four more runs against Texas starter Matt Harrison (the key hits being doubles by Damon and Rodriguez and a two-RBI triple by Robinson Cano). That was the ball game.

Hughes got through the bottom of the third on seven pitches, stranded a lead-off double in the fourth, needing just nine tosses in that frame, and pitched around another double in the fifth. The only walk he issued was to Michael Young leading off the sixth, but Young never got past first base. Hughes got through the seventh on just nine pitches, striking out Chris Davis on three of them, and needed just nine more to  work a 1-2-3 eighth.

Hughes had shown considerable improvement in his previous two games, proving he could work out of jams against the Twins, then correcting his problematic strikeout-to-walk ratio against the Orioles. The only things he had left to fix were his inefficiency with his pitches and his tendency to give up home runs. Neither was a problem yesterday, as he held the Rangers scoreless for eight frames needing just 101 pitches to do it. His final line: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K.

Over his last two starts, Hughes has struck out 15 in 13 innings against just two walks, and he’s now been legitimately dominant twice in six starts since being recalled. After featuring his fastball against the Orioles his last time out, he rode the effectiveness of his curveball yesterday. He has done everything the Yankees could ask for in terms of learning on the job and making strides toward being the pitcher the team has long hoped he’d be. Though no official announcement has been made, it now seems that Hughes’ rotation spot is his to lose and Chien-Ming Wang will hang out in the bullpen until a spot opens up or he shows the Yankees that he’s completely over his early-season struggles, which he has yet to do. Hughes will have to continue to build on his success, stay healthy, and eventually may have to deal with innings-limit concerns (his career high was 146 in 2006, he threw just 110 1/3 in 2007 and a mere 69 2/3 last year), but thus far he’s shown himself to be up to the challenge.

After Hughes’ strong eighth-inning yesterday, Joe Girardi extended his hand to the young right-hander to offer him congratulations for a job well done. Hughes looked at his manager’s hand and grimaced. He didn’t want to come out of the game, though he relented after some quick cajoling from the skipper.

Alfredo Aceves pitched the ninth, giving up a solo home run to Nelson Cruz, but nothing more. As for all those Yankee runs, four of them were driven in by Alex Rodriguez, who went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles, raising his average 70 points in the process. Nick Swisher drove in three on a groundout, a single, and a sac fly. Collectively, the Yankees picked up 19 hits, beating up on both Harrison and long reliever Kris Benson. With the win, the Yankees slipped past the Blue Jays into second place in the AL East, one game behind the Red Sox.

In less encouraging news, Brian Bruney has landed back on the disabled list after proving to have never been fully healthy in the first place and attempting to pitch through pain in his elbow. Bruney’s last MRI showed no structural damage, but he is now on his way to see Dr. James Andrews. The Yankees aren’t pleased.

David Robertson is on his way back up from Scranton, where he has now struck out 25 men against six walks and no homers in 14 2/3 innings on the season. In his earlier stint with the big club this year, Robertson struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings, again without allowing a homer, but did walk four men. He was never called on to protect a lead or with the Yankees tied or trailing by as little as one run.

As for the silly red caps the Yankees (and every other major league team) wore yesterday, I’ll leave the ranting to the fine folks over at Uni Watch. I’ll only add that the last time the Yankees wore a non-navy blue cap during the regular season was 1921, when they wore white caps with blue pinstripes at home, and the only time they’ve worn anything other than their traditional blue cap with white NY since then was last year, when MLB had them wear this cap as part of a league-wide Independence Day cash-in.

I’m pleased that baseball acknowledges Memorial Day so overtly, but while moments of silence amid afternoon ballgames feel right, the gimicky league-wide coordination of such moments of silence (honoring the “national moment of remembrance” which dates all the way back to 2001) and gaudy uniform shenanigans don’t seem like the most appropriate way to honor those lost at war.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

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1 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 26, 2009 6:18 am

Watching the archived game, Huges looks awesome!

The red hats..don't look awesome.

Flaherty..he seems to be talking a bit too much this game, but still think he and Singleton a good team.

2 RIYank   ~  May 26, 2009 6:40 am

Cliff, great title!

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 26, 2009 7:01 am

More random impressions: Kris Benson really stinks..injuries just ruined this guy I guess.

What's going on with Mike Maddux and his beard??

A-Rod..I still got him down for 35 homers this year, only thing he will miss is the steals.

Tampa: Akinori Iwamura is out for the season now, hope that doesn't mean less Rays games on tv here..

4 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 26, 2009 7:37 am

Top 8th, 2 outs, man on first. Hanshin Tigers beating Chiba Lotte Marine 2-1. now batting for the Marines, the great Benny Agbayani! any Mets lurkers here to cheer him on??

5 The Hawk   ~  May 26, 2009 8:13 am

[0] Are you certain it was cajoling?

6 Diane Firstman   ~  May 26, 2009 8:26 am


Did the Yanks wear different caps in the days after 9/11 (as the Mets did)?

7 Cru Jones   ~  May 26, 2009 8:53 am

Cliff, while the look of the red hats clearly don't appeal to your fashion sense (mine neither), they and the July 4 hats are far from greedy "cash-ins" by MLB...All proceeds go to supporting U.S. troops through the organization "Welcome Back Veterans" (http://www.welcomebackveterans.org/).

8 williamnyy23   ~  May 26, 2009 8:55 am

[6] I don't believe the Yankees took the field with the different NYC department caps as the Mets did.

As great as Hughes looked yesterday, it is important to remember that like Joba, he also has an innings limit. While it did reach 146 innings in 2006, those were all in the minors. What's more, that level is now 3 years removed the present. If you include his 30 AFL innings, Hughes is really working off of 110 and 100 innings. Again like Joba, I'd have to believe his cap is somewhere around 150. If the Yankees hope to have Hughes and Joba strong for the stretch and the post season, I think both will have to see stints in the bullpen.

9 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 26, 2009 9:05 am

William, it is going to be really tricky, and interesting to watch how they deal with Joba and Phil and the 150 or so. I am also not sure how bullpen time translates or equates in this - I don't think anyone really knows. The innings cap stuff is all fairly new, emerging from a fair bit of data about young pitchers and injuries, but what we don't know is how easily a given arm switches in and out of starter/reliever. Obviously Joba has DONE it, but he also had some issues in the process.

Has any team used a six man rotation in recent history? With Wang back (if Wang is back) that becomes at least possible - I just don't think it is a good idea. The idea would be to keep certain people on their 5 day cycles (CC, AJ, Andy) and rotate the other three so someone skips a start. Just NOT a good way to keep people in a groove. But neither is sliding in and out of the rotation, or bouncing up and down from AAA.

This is actually a really challenging dilemma for the Yankees.

Meanwhile, I really hope Robertson is as good as some here think. We may need him in a big way. Bruney sounds as if he's got troubles. Is there an eta on a healthy Marte?

10 williamnyy23   ~  May 26, 2009 9:10 am

[7] Thanks for the link. The Uniwatch article's implication that MLB is really using the commemorative hat as a money making ploy is very irresponsible without proof. In fact, according to Bizofbaseball.com, MLB is going beyond a 100% donation:

"Major League Baseball Properties, Inc will donate all of the proceeds it receives from the sale of the caps to Welcome Back Veterans. In addition, MLB.com will donate an additional $1 to Welcome Back Veterans for each cap purchased through http://www.mlb.com."

Even when MLB does something for a good cause (and this charity is a damn good one), people still feel the need to criticize the sport for being greedy. Give me a break....the hand wringing over baseball being a business has become a knee jerk reaction.

11 williamnyy23   ~  May 26, 2009 9:15 am

[9] Six man rotations have not been common (the Mets used one for a few weeks last year), and I don't think that would be a good option. However, there is precedence for breaking starters in via a hybrid bullpen/rotation. Earl Weaver used such an approach for just about every young pitcher on the Orioles. Guys like Santana and Billingsley are also recent examples of the approach. I don't think the Yankees need to fear having Joba and Hughes spend time in the bullpen.

I think the plan that makes the most sense is to return Joba/Hughes to the pen when Wang is ready and then switch the roles at a pre-defined time. Who goes to the pen first would depend what role you envision for each in the playoffs.

12 Bum Rush   ~  May 26, 2009 9:18 am

This is actually a really challenging dilemma for the Yankees.

I don't think so. Joba's at 40 innings in 8 games started - averaging about 5 IP per start. If he starts 20 more games that's only 140 innings. Maybe they have to skip him a few times to keep him under 30 games started, but that's not a big issue.

Same story with Hughes - 8 games started and ~40 innings. He's also good for another 20 starts or so. Even if they have to skip him a few times, it's not a big deal.

To do the math another way: The Yanks have 117 games left. Divide that by five pitchers and you get 23 games started by each pitcher. So even if both Hughes and Joba start going 6 or 7 innings every start, we're talking, maybe, 15 games started by another pitcher....like Wang.

13 Bum Rush   ~  May 26, 2009 9:21 am

@ 10

Great, so every iteration of uniforms is for a good cause?

This is an exception, not the rule. And exceptions are no logical place to base an argument, unless you're a lawyer or a sophist.

14 RIYank   ~  May 26, 2009 9:23 am

I think about 150 innings is probably the ideal season total for Hughes, but I'm pretty sure the Yankees feel that's a lot more flexible than Chamberlain's limit.

I can't decide what I think is the best way to handle this situation. None of the options gives me a very satisfied feeling, but several seem reasonable. I do think that Hughes' performance yesterday has pretty well guaranteed that he won't be sent to Scranton until and unless he has a bad MLB start.

15 Bum Rush   ~  May 26, 2009 9:23 am

@ 11

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Let "roles" dictate playing time. No wonder you love Torre and hate Girardi...

16 PJ   ~  May 26, 2009 9:25 am

Where is George Carlin when we really need him?

All I know is if my name were Taylor Teagarden, I'd be changin' that shit with tha quickness!

May as well be named Donovan Dollhouse, Yardley Uterus, Oakley Ovary, or Vance Vagina!

God I loathe the emasculation of men in our nation by these ridiculously girlish names!

Cut it out already, fer Christ's sakes!

Taylor Teagarden???


Give me Carlos Coffeeshop any day!

: )

17 RIYank   ~  May 26, 2009 9:26 am

I'm afraid to ask what "PJ" stands for...


18 williamnyy23   ~  May 26, 2009 9:28 am

[14] The one thing that I think would be a total waste is to have Hughes return to Scranton (unless he pitches extremely poorly). There is no reason to use any more bullets in the minors.

19 Mattpat11   ~  May 26, 2009 9:29 am

More importantly, the Yankees have jumped the more irrelevant by the day Blue Jays and can claim a share of first place today.

20 Bum Rush   ~  May 26, 2009 9:31 am

Joba and Hughes also both have to stay healthy for this even to be a topic to worry about. Call me unconcerned until both make their next ten scheduled starts. Then we'll be looking at them each approaching 100 innings by August. That's a long time in baseball terms.

21 PJ   ~  May 26, 2009 9:40 am

[17] Well is sure as Hell isn't Precious Jaeden!

: )

(Actually, it's Peter Joseph... no "Pete" please...)

22 The Hawk   ~  May 26, 2009 10:33 am

I think Chamberlain has more or less proven he can be consistently effective - we'll see how his knee - or hell his arm - is, injury-wise. Can he stay healthy? Hughes doesn't seem to be as risky health-wise, but he has yet to show consistency. A few more solid starts from him and a bounce-back from Wang and then we're gonna have a very nice problem to have.

Because of the innings limit though, it seems the safe thing to do is have the youngsters spell each other with one in the pen while the other starts, for a period of time. If it came down to one in the pen for the playoffs and/or a playoff run, I think the obvious choice is Chamberlain.

23 Diane Firstman   ~  May 26, 2009 10:36 am

Taylor Teagarden anagrams to Alternate Gay Rod


24 FreddySez   ~  May 26, 2009 10:43 am

Okay, here's some naked truth without the usual diplomatic argle-bargle: The Yankees' uniform tradition is bigger than, and more important than, any promotional experiments MLB wants to try.

I didn't say "a team's uniform tradition." I said the Yankees'. Let MLB jerk around the Mariners or Diamondbacks or Angels all they want, but IMO no one at any level of baseball has the right to suggest any alteration in the most honored, most dignified uniform in sports.

Don't know what if anything went on behind the scenes, but I'd like to think someone in the Bronx (okay, Tampa) pushed back on this. If so, wish they'd pushed harder. I know this was for a good cause, but I also know the Yankees do plenty through other channels to support and honor the armed services.

* whew *

Re-installing cloak of even temperament; pouring some decaf, pretending once again for politeness' sake that the other 29 teams put together are as meaningful as ours.

25 Rich   ~  May 26, 2009 10:45 am

If the Yankee are fortunate enough to be faced with the dilemma of Hughes and Joba each having pitched 150 effective innings, between Wang, Aceves, and maybe even Kontos, they should be able to compensate for their respective innings cap.

On the other end of the spectrum, CC has already pitched 71 innings.

26 Cru Jones   ~  May 26, 2009 10:51 am

[24] dude, it's just an outfit. getting some much-needed money to some suffering vets just doesn't seem like something to get all worked up over.

27 williamnyy23   ~  May 26, 2009 10:54 am

[24] I am a big advocate of the Yankees brand, but it isn't bigger than MLB's attempts to raise money for a very worth charity. Having said that, I do think MLB could give teams the option of wearing the hat or simply making a donation. I am not sure what the Yankees would have chosen, but I don't think wearing a red hat on rare occasions diminishes the brand or desecrates the tradition of the uniform.

Also, I'd have to imagine that the bulk of proceeds would come from Yankee hats. Using D-back hats to raise money might not be very successful.

28 The Hawk   ~  May 26, 2009 10:56 am

[24] This is precisely - and no offense meant - the attitude that I'm tiring of in regards to the Yankees in general. The idea that all things Yankee are hallowed and untouchable has gotten real old, real fast. YES has probably been the prime mover, and the closing of the old stadium and opening of the new have taking it to stomach-turning levels. The Yankees are a storied franchise, but it holds no appeal for me to put them on a pedestal this high. it's just too stuffy and, frankly, ridiculous for a baseball team.

29 Mattpat11   ~  May 26, 2009 11:25 am

My big problem with the hats is they were frigging ugly.

30 RIYank   ~  May 26, 2009 11:37 am

[29] Same here.
Purely aesthetic.

31 tommyl   ~  May 26, 2009 11:56 am

One option for Joba/Hughes if they both stay healthy is to team them up down the stretch. One start, Joba is the starter, Hughes shadows him (so 5 innings from Joba, 4 from Hughes) and then swap them out for the next start etc. Its a bit novel, but it'd limit innings for both while still having them pitch "like starters". At any rate, we're a long way off from worrying about innings caps, they need to stay healthy.

As for Wang, well raise your hand if you think Joba, Hughes, AJ and Andy will all not miss another start. He'll be back in the rotation soon enough methinks.

32 Cru Jones   ~  May 26, 2009 11:57 am

[29] well, they had to choose something besides dark blue (last year's july 4th hat), so a non-offensive, cheery red to go with the red, white and blue NY wasn't the worst choice (and much better than the army fatigue padres uniform or a darker (more blood-like) red (especially on memorial day)).

to avoid any connection between red (blood) and memorial day, i guess they could have gone with a white hat, but that probably wouldn't have been as distinctive. or maybe black, the traditional mourning color? 'eh, this is why i don't work in marketing/design.

just be thankful that MLB chose a pink bat for breast cancer awareness instead of pink hats.

33 flycaster   ~  May 26, 2009 12:20 pm

This is bound to annoy some here. So be it. No where, either in Cliff's typically trenchant analysis or in the thread, is there a single mention of Dave Eiland regarding Hughes' recent improvement. This is the burden managers/coaches face regarding the esteem in which they are held by the fan base. They don't get much credit when things go well. I suppose those in this group who have concluded that he's a shitbum will reason that Phil is coming along in spite of Eiland's coaching. Sigh...

34 zack   ~  May 26, 2009 12:31 pm

[8] Actually, going by the so called "Verducci rule," Hughes should be good for about 170 or so innings, as he writes "Here's the way I track it: Find major league pitchers 25-and-under who broke the 30-inning rule. In some cases a pitcher's innings the previous season may have been artificially depressed, such as by injury, so I'll use his professional high for the baseline, or, in the case of a recent draftee like Kennedy, his college workload. All innings count (minors, majors, postseason)."

So Hughes' minor league innings count, and his 140 or so innings represent the figure to go by, not last years' suppressed #s. If Hughes can stay healthy all year, and that's a big IF, he should pitch 170 innings, which for the Yankees, would be an imperative to get him there.

35 williamnyy23   ~  May 26, 2009 12:42 pm

[33] Has there been much talk about Eiland? I haven't noticed any, to be honest.

[34] The problem I have with that is Hughes is now two seasons removed from that baseline, which only includes minor league innings to begin with. I'd rather the Yankees error on the side of caution than push Hughes to 170 major league innings after two seasons with 72 and 34.

36 Rich   ~  May 26, 2009 1:37 pm

[33] [35] I have criticized Eiland because at least until the last week or so, the only member of the troika of Hughes, Joba, and IPK to have any real success in the MLs was Joba. If Hughes and Joba continue to pitch well, and Robertson and Melancon flourish, I will give him praise, but it's premature to give him much credit yet.

As I have said, before, I still want to know why Hughes is no longer a GB pitcher.

37 Diane Firstman   ~  May 26, 2009 1:57 pm

I have three little words . . . Pulsipher, Isringhausen, Wilson ...

in other words ... you just never know what you have in pitching prospects ...

38 thelarmis   ~  May 26, 2009 2:13 pm

[3] i, too, think A-Rod will hit 35 bombs this year. sucks about the stolen bases - he's only 17 away from 300 and, subsequently, the 300-300 club. he'll get there, but not this year. maybe not even next...

with jeter stealing bags again, i think he'll eventually overtake Rickey as the franchise leader in stolen bases. he's currently 33 away from passing Rickey...

39 Rich   ~  May 26, 2009 5:43 pm

[37] Except Joba and Hughes are no longer prospects, they are young ML pitchers and are no longer ranked on lists of top prospects.

40 FreddySez   ~  May 27, 2009 10:02 am

Okay, I misread the room re: red hats and got a rolled-up newspaper across the snout. Fair enough. But for what it's worth, my outlook has nothing to do with the manufactured boosterism on YES.

Seriously, though -- what if next year the commish comes out and says all teams have to put their names on the backs of their jerseys? There's a line somewhere.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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