Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa offers three options of what to do with Phil Hughes and David Huff.
Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa offers three options of what to do with Phil Hughes and David Huff.
Phil Hughes: unwanted.
[Photo Credit: Uli Seit/The New York Times]
Tonight gives Phil Hughes vs. Wade Davis, the former Tampa Bay Ray. (In fact, there are familiar faces starting for the Royals all weekend: James Shields and Ervin Santana.)
Over at Sports on Earth, Jorge Arangure Jr has a nice piece on Hughes:
“If you pick up on things that hitters were trying to do to you, and you don’t really have anything to combat that, then I guess you start thinking about ways that you can start incorporating new pitches into what you do,” Hughes said.
The easiest solution, and the one that would require the least amount of drastic makeover, would be for Hughes to transform his cutter into a full-fledged slider. The two pitches aren’t so different. They both move sideways. The slider is just a more drastic version of the cutter.
“I think at the time I wasn’t pitching horribly,” Hughes said. “It was just something that I wanted to incorporate. I felt it would be better if I did do that. I felt it would be a good pitch for me because it would be a little bit of a change of pace, just off the slower curveball that I throw, four seam fastball and change up. I felt it was something that came out of my hand like a fastball.”
Brett Gardner CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Travis Hafner DH
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Jayson Nix SS
Lyle Overbay 1B
Chris Nelson 3B
Chris Stewart C
Never mind the BBQ:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
[Photo Credit: Old One Eye]
Today’s spring training notes from Chad Jennings.
Joba Chamberlain is, well, this picture makes me think of the following words:
load, loaf, scrub, pizza, beer, ass.
[Links from the essential Lo-Hud Yankees blog; picture lifted from there too. Original image credit goes to the Associated Press.]
Well, I missed the whole damn affair. Family gathering upstate. Had to be done and it turned out to be a nice time. I checked the score from time-to-time and was thrilled to learn that Phil Hughes, after giving up a couple of runs in the first, was stingy. He went eight innings and a two-run home run by Robinson Cano–yes, that man again–broke the tie as the Yankees beat the White Sox, 4-2.
Cano is surging, is in the prime of his career, and more than capable of carrying the team for weeks at a time. It’s also been great to see Hughes, Nova and Kuroda pitching well, am I right?
Coupled with a Baltimore loss the Yanks are now six games ahead in the American League East. That’s the way to beat the heat. Nice job by the Yanks after losing the first two games of the series–the White Sox got two runs in the last couple of games.
And on Old Timer’s Day (covered here by Harvey Araton), Derek Jeter, C.C. Sabathia, Curtis Granderson and Cano were selected to the All Star Game. Sabathia was replaced by C.J. Wilson. Also, the Yanks picked up a reliever today and over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa can’t figure it.
[Featured Image via: Kathy Willens/AP Photo; interior pictures by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images and Willens]
Derek Jeter led off the game with a home run to right field, a few innings later Alex Rodriguez turned around a 95 mph fastball from Justin Verlander and hit a grown-up homer to left (eat your heart out Miguel Cabrera).
But I buried the lede–Phil Hughes was terrific. His fastball was in the mid-90s, the curve ball was crisp, and he out-pitched the Tigers’ ace as the Yanks sailed to a 5-1 win. Hughes went the distance (four hits, three walks, eight strikeouts), a remarkable comeback after his lousy outing in California. A solo homer to Prince Fielder was the one blemish on one of the finest performances of his career–he even struck the great Cabrera out twice.
I didn’t see this one coming. But after last night’s tense game, this one was a cool breeze.
Yanks have the day-off tomorrow and then will host the Rays followed by the Mets. Should be a fun week.
And some games are comfortable to sleep through. This was one of them. It was a hot spring day in New York and the crowd at Yankee Stadium was sedate. Late afternoon game. Phil Hughes had his best performance of the season. He gave up one run–a beautiful line drive homer by Mike Carp–and pitched into the eighth inning. He was relieved by Boone Logan after giving up an infield single and bloop base hit to left field. Hughes allowed six hits, walked a batter, struck out four, and was never in any real trouble.
Hector Noesi pitched well, too. Had one tough inning, the second, where the Yanks scored four runs, two coming on a home run to right field by Jayson Nix. Raul Ibanez hit a long homer to center field in the fourth and that was all the scoring the Yanks would need though Robinson Cano added an RBI single in the eighth. Derek Jeter added a couple more hits and is now tied with the great Tony Gwynn on the all-hit hits list. The old goat even stole a base.
Yup, there was little tension in this one until the top of the ninth when Carp hit a ball off the top of the wall in right with a runner on first. The umps reviewed the play and awarded Carp second base instead of giving him a homer and one run scored. Logan struck out the next two hitters to end it.
A soft breeze cooled things down as afternoon turned to evening. It was an ideal game to nap through, occasionally opening one-eye to see what was what, the announcers’ voices humming in the background. Only thing that was missing was a hammock. But we’ll take the win.
Final Score: Yanks 6, Mariners 2.
For the past two years, in mid-August the Minnesota Twins have been competitive enough to defuse the inevitable Brett Favre melodrama. Favre is out supposedly Donovan McNabb is in, and Republican presidential hopefuls who win straw polls in neighboring Iowa and confuse celebrity birthdays and deathdays are providing the melodrama. The Twins, they entered tonight’s game 15 games under .500, 11 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers, almost irrelevant in the AL Central.
But for the Yankees, the Minnesota Twins are relevant. They’re on the list of “teams we should beat whenever, wherever” en route to the postseason. Thursday night, with C.C. Sabathia on the mound, mission accomplished. Friday night, with Phil Hughes going, the team performance was even more impressive.
First let’s take the offense. The first time through the batting order, Derek Jeter, Robinson Canó, Nick Swisher and J Martin were the only Yankees to swing at the first pitch against Kevin Slowey, who was making his first start of the season for the Twins (his previous six appearances had been in relief). None of the four first-pitch swingers put the ball in play. Martin was the only one to keep his in fair territory, however. He crushed a hanging curveball into the leftfield seats not unlike someone named Trevor Plouffe did in the first inning for the Twins.
Martin’s solo home run tied the game and allowed the offense to collectively exhale and get into the rhythm. They scored a run in the fourth and in the fifth, which Martin led off with a single, the top of the order wore out Slowey. With Gardner on first base (he reached on a fielder’s choice), Jeter squibbed a single up the middle on an 0-2 pitch. The at-bat may have been the turning point in the game. It set up first-and third with one out, and Curtis Granderson followed with a double that tightroped the first base line and skidded off the bag before barreling into the rightfield corner. Gardner scored, Jeter to third. Mark Teixeira followed with a sac fly to make it 4-1 and the Score Truck had a head of steam. The coup de grace came in the sixth, as J Martin unloaded again. This time, it was a two-run shot to left that broke the game open. With Scott Brosius doing a guest spot in the YES booth in that same half-inning, it seemed fitting that the best No. 9 hitter in recent Yankee memory observed the current No. 9 hitter have arguably his best offensive night as a Yankee. The Yankees posted another two-spot in the ninth inning to complete the rout at 8-1.
Now, let’s take the pitching, specifically Phil Hughes’s outing. Despite Freddy Garcia’s placement on the disabled list and what that means for the temporary settlement of a five-man rotation, Hughes still has pressure on him. Every start is an audition to present his case to remain in the rotation through September and into October. Given what happened in Boston when he appeared in relief, perhaps Hughes has readjusted his brain chemistry to be a starting pitcher.
Hughes cruised much the way he did in Chicago on August 2. He pounded the strike zone with his fastball, changed speeds effectively, and maintained his aggressiveness with two strikes. That aggressiveness didn’t manifest itself in strikeouts as it had in Hughes’s previous two starts against Chicago and Tampa Bay, but it did lead to weak contact and routine outs. Between the home run he allowed to Plouffe in the first inning and the walk he issued to Plouffe to lead off the seventh, Hughes only allowed one Twin to reach base.
Joe Girardi allowed Hughes to start the eighth, and pitcher rewarded manager by retiring the first batter. The next two at-bats didn’t go quite as well. Luke Hughes (no relation) singled to left on a 1-2 curveball and Tsuyoshi Nishioka followed with a screaming liner that caught Gardner in left more than Gardner caught the ball. That was it for Hughes.
Credit Girardi for relieving Hughes when he did not because of the pitch count, but because in the last eight batters he faced, Hughes issued two walks, a hit, and a loud out. Overall, Hughes was as dominant as he was in the rain-shortened effort against the White Sox. He is 3-0 in his last three decisions as a starter and his fourth straight quality start. Since returning from the DL on July 6, he’s lowered his ERA from Chien-Ming Wang (13.94) to Sergio Mitre (5.75).
All signs point to Hughes being on the right track.
J Martin said of Hughes, “He’s progressing late in the season. You’d rather have somebody peaking late than peaking too early.”
CURRYING FAVOR FOR GRANDY
Curtis Granderson figured prominently in the Yankees victory, yet again. Midway through the game, Jack Curry joined Michael Kay and John Flaherty in the YES broadcast booth and Curry asked Kay if he had an MVP vote, who he would vote for. Kay believed that Adrian Gonzalez would win, because his batting average entering Friday’s action was more than 60 points higher than Granderson. Curry said he’d vote for Granderson.
But there’s a catch.
Six years ago, I wrote a column arguing that Baseball Prospectus’s VORP statistic should be the primary determinant in MVP voting. If that were to hold true this season, Jose Bautista would win, as his VORP total is 69.2 to Granderson’s 57.6. Bautista’s batting average is .314 to Granderson’s .284, he leads the American League in home runs (35), on-base percentage (.455), slugging percentage (.638) and OPS (1.093). The Sabermetricians would put Bautista as the MVP. In terms of VORP, Gonzalez ranks fourth on his team.
So where’s the line? Granderson, compared to Gonzalez and Bautista, is a different offensive player. Not better, but different. Speed adds that other dimension. Perhaps the speed makes Granderson a more complete offensive threat. That completeness is what swayed Jack Curry.
The bottom line: the decision will be subjective, and bias will be involved. If Granderson isn’t the league MVP this season he’s definitely been the MVY (Most Valuable Yankee).
Hughes was seen throwing in the bullpen during Saturday’s Game 2 blowout, and later confirmed it was a scheduled throw day and he was still trying to find his mechanics. Maybe something clicked in that session and he didn’t leave it all on the range, so to speak.
Hughes barreled his way through the White Sox lineup, allowing just three base runners in six innings, and throwing only 65 pitches before rain halted play prior to the bottom of the seventh inning. It was the hardest Hughes had thrown all year he was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball and spotted it as well as he has all year. He was aggressive when reaching two strikes on hitters. Hughes ended the first inning with a 95-mph fastball on the outside corner to strike out Carlos Quentin looking. In the second, he struck out A.J. Pierzynski on a nasty 0-2 curveball and later blew away Gordon Beckham with a letter-high fastball clocked at 94 mph. We haven’t seen Hughes at that level of attack mode since 2009, when he was Mariano Rivera’s setup man.
In addition to being aggressive, Hughes, who had averaged 15 pitches per inning and slightly better than 5 1/3 innings pitched over his first seven starts of the season, was efficient. He needed only 65 pitches to get through his six innings. Hughes had also entered the game with a decidedly higher ratio of flyball outs to groundball outs (2.23-to-1). He balanced that out to an even 1-to-1, inducing seven groundball outs and seven flyball outs.
On the YES telecast at the start of the rain delay, Michael Kay opined, “If someone said to Brian Cashman, ‘Hey Brian, if you could acquire a 25-year-old All-Star, would you take it?’ He might get that back right now.” Is Kay’s praise overstated? Hughes looked an awful lot like the pitcher who earned an All-Star selection in 2010, won 18 games and was the No. 2 starter in the playoffs before his mysterious deadarm period. It was his best outing of the season to date. It was also the third time in his last four starts that he completed six innings, so perhaps Hughes’ stamina is increasing along with his arm strength.
Perhaps Hughes’ success coming on the road should not be viewed as a surprise. Last year, in 13 road appearances, Hughes’ ERA was more than a run lower (3.47 to 4.66), his BAA was 10 points lower (.238 to .248), opponents’ slugging percentage was more than 100 points lower (.336 to .443), and his K/BB ratio was better than 3-to-1, compared to 2-to-1 at home.
What to make of this? We need to see a larger sample size to get a true gauge of what Phil Hughes is, and what he will be. The Yankees like their “proven guys” heading into the playoffs. That he didn’t lose his spot in the rotation after his DL stint, despite numbers that resembled Chien-Ming Wang circa, well, since he injured himself running the bases in Houston in 2009, proves the Yankees want Hughes to be one of their guys down the stretch and beyond.
Hughes still has some proving to do, but the initial signs are encouraging.
BIG BATS, BIG TEX
Hughes benefited once again from great run support. Sixteen times last year the Yankees scored 6 runs or more for him, and they’ve now done it in two of his last three starts.
The Yankees jumped on lefty John Danks early, scoring in each of the first three innings. They broke the game open with two more in the sixth. Mark Teixeira homered from both sides of the plate to come within one of Jose Bautista’s American League lead. The two home runs were also historic: his first home run, a two-run shot in the fourth off Danks (batting right-handed), marked the eighth straight season Tex has hit at least 30 home runs. His solo shot in the sixth off Jason Frasor (batting left-handed), marked the 12th time in his career he’s homered from both sides of the plate in the same game. Teixeira is now the all-time leader in that category.
In another under-the-radar note, Derek Jeter’s first inning single moved him past Rafael Palmeiro for 24th on the all-time hits list. His next hit will tie him with Lou Brock. At his current pace, he should pass Rod Carew (3,053), Rickey Henderson (3,055), and Craig Biggio (3,060) and finish the season at No. 20.
Final: 6-0 (7 innings).
Phil Hughes goes tonight in Chicago. Another big start for him.
Never mind the riff raff:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
So no bad news is good news for Phil Hughes. Here’s Ben Shipgel in the Times:
All of Hughes’s tests Monday came back negative for circulatory and vascular problems, the Yankees said. The development deepens the mystery regarding Hughes’s lack of arm strength but spreads a feeling of relief that thoracic outlet syndrome is not the cause.
“I’m not sure if he has that, what they have to do and how long you don’t have him if that’s what he has,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “It makes me feel better.”
Hughes traveled to St. Louis to meet with Dr. Robert William Thompson, a renowned vascular surgeon, to confirm or to rule out that he had thoracic outlet syndrome.
Now he will return on Tuesday to New York, despite having a locker set up for him in the visiting clubhouse, to rehabilitate his shoulder as the Yankees redouble their efforts to discover why it feels numb when he pitches.
Curious. Very curious.
The story of the past week has been pitching, in a number of facets. But which pitcher was THE story? Let’s take a look at the items up for bid …
* Mariano Rivera blew two consecutive saves after converting his first seven save opportunities and looking as superhuman as ever. And he wasn’t booed, because these saves were a) blown on the road; and b) didn’t come against the Red Sox at home.
* Rafael Soriano, however, was booed, and deservedly so, during and after Tuesday’s 8th inning meltdown. Strong pieces at ESPN New York by Johnette Howard and the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Barbarisi on Soriano’s fragility.
* Phil Hughes went to the DL, tried to throw, his arm was a noodle, and now a mysterious shoulder ailment that may or may not be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is being discussed as a possible diagnosis. Compression of either the nerves, artery or vein in the clavicle area signify TOS. One of the possible causes of the “repetitive trauma”. The pitching motion classifies as repetitive trauma. In more severe TOS cases, surgery is required. Former Yankee Kenny Rogers had surgery to repair TOS in 2001. He came back and pitched seven more seasons.
* Pedro Feliciano, it was great to meet you. Who is Lance Pendleton?
* Bartolo Colon, who many believed should have been in the rotation anyway based on his performance in Spring Training, replaced Hughes and tossed an 8-inning gem. Even more impressive was the consistency of his velocity: 95 in the early going, and 96 in the later innings. Is he the Yankees best pitcher right now, as Wally Matthews suggests? Maybe.
* Freddy Garcia, who pitches tonight, has a matching WHIP and ERA (0.69), and has allowed just 5 hits in 13 IP thus far.
* AJ Burnett may be the best story of all. He suffered a hard luck loss on Monday because the Yankees’ offense is ineffective against pitchers that a) they’ve never seen before; b) pitch like Mike Mussina in the 86-89 mph range, but change speeds and have movement on their pitches. Despite the team result, he may have pitched his best game of the season. The question, as it always is with Mr. Allan James Burnett, is consistency. Will he breathe out of the correct eyelids in May?
* Ivan Nova proved he may be able to get past five innings. Small sample size, yes. But still …
* And of course, there’s CC Sabathia. He’s the ace, the grinder, and the guy who more often than not, somehow makes the right pitch to wriggle out of jams. An ace isn’t always a dominant strikeout pitcher. The main job, keep the opposition off the scoreboard and give your offense a chance to support you. He did it Thursday, just as he did so many times the previous two seasons.
Of those guys, which story had the greatest impact? My vote is for Hughes, because of the trickle-down effect it’s caused in the rotation. If Colon and Garcia keep this up, they get the Aaron Small / Shawn Chacon Memorial “Surprise MVPs” Award.
Feel free to agree / disagree below, in Comments.
[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP]
Here kitty, kitty…
What does catwoman have to do with the slumping Chicago White Sox? You got me. I just wanted an excuse to post this picture.
Here at the Banter, we root, root, root for the home team.
Never mind the Meow Mix, forget the rain: Let’s Go Yank-ees!
[Photo Credit: Christina Ricci by Gas Station]
[Picture found at This Isn’t Happiness]