In 2007, Baseball America ranked Phil Hughes the No. 4 prospect in baseball. He wasn’t the only New York prospect to make the list. Mike Pelfrey, his opponent tonight, was ranked No. 20. Both had ups and downs during the early years of their careers, but they have both become important parts of their teams’ pitching staffs. Tonight does not necessarily represent a test of any sort for either pitcher, but it’s certainly event when two touted young pitchers face each other.
Pelfrey broke out two years ago, when he threw 200.2 innings for the 2008 Mets. After a bit of a setback in 2009, including an increase in his home run and walk rates, Pelfrey has come on strong this year. He currently has a 3.02 ERA, and has thrown only one poor start, a six-run affair against Philly that came after he had allowed two earned runs in all of April. He’s struck out a few more batters than he has in the past, which likely has something to do with his splitter. He’s also a ground ball guy.
Phil Hughes is coming off his worst start of the season. He lasted only five innings against the Red Sox and allowed five runs, though, as I noted after the game, he seemed just a little off. Mike also followed up with a look at how Hughes attacked the Red Sox hitters. Even with the poor performance his ERA still sits at just 2.25. This is his first start on the road during interleague play.
During his pregame media session Joe Girardi mostly answered questions about Mariano Rivera. He said what he’s been saying for the past few days, the it’s about location for Mo, and he’s been catching a bit too much of the plate. “He gets into long counts at times,” Girardi added. He said that if the velocity were down that it would be a concern, but it is not. In fact, he added, Mo hit 94 on the gun at points this year. Baseball Info Solutions has him at right around the level he was last year, as does PitchFX. Girardi added that the flank issue that caused Mo to miss a few games earlier is completely gone.
The only other concern, he said, is if Mo can’t go back to back days. That might get tested tonight if the Yanks take a slim lead into the bottom of the ninth.
The other main topic was interleague play. He talked about the injury potential for pitchers, noting Brad Penny’s trip to the DL following his grand slam last night. That comes for an NL pitcher. It’s even tougher for AL pitchers, obviously, because they don’t regularly take BP. “We’re not going to do a simulated game,” Girardi said, “because you’re afraid that they’re going to get hurt.” It really is a tough situation for AL pitchers, and the Yanks know that first hand.
Finally, an update on Javy Vazquez. His index finger is still swollen, but better than yesterday. They won’t know anything until he throws his bullpen session, which should come on Monday. The main thing, Girardi said, is that he can grip the ball. From there everything should be fine.