Update: How could I forget this? During the mini press conference with Billy Connors, Reggie Jackson dropped in. He came in, changed his shorts, checked out his junk, and left. Crazy.
We’re in an 8th inning rain delay with the Thunder up 5-1, so I figured I’d throw this together real quick while we wait.
Okay, so we all know Phil’s final line: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. He ran into some trouble in the first and fourth innings, where he had his walks, but in the end he pitched well. He tossed 49 pitches — I think — (I was wrong, it was 59) and another 15 in the bullpen afterwards, so 75 total.
Afterwards, Phil mentioned that his fastball command isn’t quite there yet. While that’s certainly true, don’t take it as his command being way off at this point. He was definitely hitting his corners, especially in the middle two innings. He even hit a low and outside spot to get Wilson Batista in the bottom of the fourth on a 3-2 count. So while the command might not be all there, it’s not like he has miles to go.
He also commented that he was slow out of the stretch. His velocity, according to Billy Connors, was at 91-92, so he’s in a good range, but has some improvement strides to make. Really, it’s a matter of just a few miles per hour, so once again we shouldn’t take this as a sign of him taking another three starts or so to be back.
The best part, to me, was that he said he paid no unusual attention to his landing leg and foot, which are the sources of his recent injuries. He even fielded a bunt in the third inning, coming quickly off the mound and firing accurately to Cody Ehlers at first. He said that while it was nice to field the bunt clearly, it really didn’t have any effect on his leg, since he was pivoting and pushing off his uninjured right leg.
49 59 pitches through four, Phil said he was fatigued, but not gassed. Billy Connors then said basically the same thing. That’s a bit of a concern. As Phil put it, going from 49 59 to 90 isn’t really an option. So he’s going to have to work through I would guess two Scranton starts before he’s back. I obviously could be wrong, but I just don’t see him making the leap after just one Scranton start.
By the way, the target pitch count for Scranton on — they said Sunday, but I would think they meant Monday — is 75, as stated by Billy Connors. So you figure he goes 75, then 90 on Friday, and that would open him up for a start in the Bronx.
As far as his pitches, both Connors and Hughes lamented his fastball command, but once again, I think they’re overblowing it to the media. He threw some nice curves, which we all saw. He also mixed in a few sliders, which is great to hear, since it was his best pitch coming out of high school and supposedly a major league ready offering. He did leave his changeup up in the zone. That’s another reason I think he’ll be making two Scranton starts. Look for a lot of fastballs and changeups at least on Monday. GIve him the game to work on those pitches, and then let him pitch naturally with a 90 pitch limit next Friday. That should put him in a position to return.
Honestly, the way he looked and sounded, you could have mistaken Hughes for a drinking buddy. His answers were quick and honest, and it didn’t seem like he was reaching back for stock answers.
I did get in one question, asking Phil about the possibility of pitching winter ball due to his low innings totals this year. He said there was no talk of that right now, but that would be something they’d decide at the end of the season. It sounded like he wasn’t opposed to the idea. I suppose it will depend. If he’s pitching deep into October, maybe he won’t. But if they’re done on September 31, I would figure the topic would at least be visited. But as of now, there is nothing on that front.
Oh, and while walking out, I turned around and saw big Phil behind me. Instead of just letting him pass, I let out a “good job out there, man.” He politely said “thanks,” and probably cursed me out in his mind. That’s what I get for being inexperienced, I suppose.