For much of the last three years, we’ve heard more than we ever wished to about the Joba Rules. First, these rules dictated how often Joba could pitch out of the bullpen. Then, they dictated how many innings he would pitch in preparation for becoming a starter. Then, they dictated how many innings he could pitch in a single season as a starter. Then, they dictated how many pitches he could throw in one outing as the Yanks tried to keep him under his innings count. It was quite the process.
In 2010, Joba will no longer have rules. He’s passed all the tests, some with better results than others, and the Yanks are prepared to let him go this year. He’ll throw as many innings as the Yankees need him to. However, one of the Yanks’ other young guns — Phil Hughes — won’t be as lucky. As the Joba Rules exit stage left, the Hughes Rules enter stage right.
In an interview on WFAN available here, Yanks’ pitching coach Dave Eiland spoke about the Hughes Rules, and Steve S. at The Yankee U offers up a transcription of the interview. First, Eiland noted that Joba’s lack of innings limit does not give him a leg up in the fifth starter race this spring, and then, he addressed the Hughes question.
“You’ve got to remember,” Eiland said, “Joba had restrictions because he never had a full season in professional baseball as a starter. Phil Hughes has had several minor league seasons as a starter. So there’s going to be restrictions, but they’re not going to be as strenuous as Joba. And I’ll just leave it at that, right there. There’s restrictions, and we’re on the side of caution with all our guys.”
As Steve notes at TYU, Hughes’ career innings high came in 2006 when, as a 20-year-old, he threw 146 innings, all at the minor league level. I doubt the Yanks will let Hughes exceed that total by 30 innings, the generally accepted increase for a young starter, because he hasn’t reached that level in three full seasons. However, the Yanks would probably allow Hughes 150 innings. It’s tough to see him reaching that as a sixth starter/bullpen guy, but he’ll have to outpitch Joba in Spring Training to earn that rotation spot.
In the end, the Yankees have a problem many teams would love to have. They have too many good young pitchers and not enough rotation spots. Somehow, I imagine, this will all work out in the end but not after we hear about the Hughes Rules over and over again.