Phil Hughes and a dose of reality

Sick of this.
Teixeira could be 2012's big offensive addition
(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Although he’s still only 25, it feels like Phil Hughes has lived a baseball lifetime with the Yankees. He’s gone from first round pick (2004) to top prospect (2005-2006) to disappointing rookie (2007-2008) to dominant reliever (2009) to dominant starter (early-2010) to disappointing starter (mid-2010 to present) with a lot of injuries in between. The Yankees have him penciled into a rotation spot for next season at the moment, but Phil is aware that he’s passed of the point of getting by on potential.

“I’m at a point where the patience is running out,” he said to Mark Feinsand on Wednesday. “I’m not a prospect anymore and I’m not 21 years old anymore. You’re gauged on what kind of year you had, not what you’re capable of doing.”

Like he said, Hughes is not a kid anymore. His big league career is 120 games and 443.2 IP old already, he’s no longer cheap (MLBTR projects a $3.4M salary next season), and he’s now just two years away from free agency. The training wheels are off, at least to a certain extent. Given their current rotation situation, it makes sense for the Yankees to give Phil yet another chance at starting rather than banish him back to the bullpen, where he looked quite good at the end of the season and in the ALDS. That is subject to change depending on how the offseason plays out, though.

After coming to camp out of shape last year, Hughes has been working out with Ricky Romero at Athletes Performance Institute near his Southern California home this winter. Feinsand says he started throwing three weeks ago, a full month earlier than usual.

“I want to make sure to get that out of the way now so there are no lingering effects when we start camp in February,” said Hughes, referring to the dead arm phase that hits most pitchers at some point in Spring Training and hurt him in the first half of this past season. “I want my arm to be in shape and be ready to go full-bore when we report.”

That’s great to hear, but words aren’t worth very much. Spending the offseason at API speaks to his (re)commitment to conditioning more than anything else, you know, the whole “actions speak louder than words” thing. Hughes has to treat next season as his last chance (not that it will be, but that’s how he should approach it), because he’s going to have a rotation spot barring some unexpected and significant pitching additions in the coming weeks. He’s going to have the opportunity to help the team as well as himself in a big way, by potentially establishing himself as a bonafide big leaguer starter and earning himself a nice payday in the following season.

“It’s always good to hear your manager say that he expects you to be in that spot,” said Hughes, referring to some recent comments made by Joe Girardi. “But at the end of the day, if you don’t do what you’re expected to do, there’s going to be somebody that will.”

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Sick of this.
Teixeira could be 2012's big offensive addition
  • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

    While I read this post Phil Hughes googled “how to deepfry a pizza”.

    • Soriano Is A Liar

      Why google it when he could just call Joba?

    • Will (the other one)

      It’s called “Scottish-Italian food,” thank-you-very-much.

    • Plank

      When reached for comment Phil Hughes replied “Nom nom nom…more gravy…nom nom nom.”

      • Mattchu12

        Phil Hughes called to say, “I really greatly dislike you.”

        Had to.

        • Plank

          How awesome would it be if Ted Nelson was Phil Hughes’ handle?

          • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

            I actually think Ted is Mike Mussina.

            • Plank

              I doubt Ted is that man-pretty. I’m sure he’s not ugly, mind you, just not classically handsome. He almost certainly has a mustache as well, I’ve decided. And not one of those silly hipster ‘staches, full cop ‘stache.

              • MattG

                You think Ted is Nick Offerman?

          • Mattchu12

            I hope Phil isn’t that crazy…

            • Plank

              I did some digging, and I found a few things out,

              TN got a 720 verbal and a 900 math on his SATs.

              TN is a notary public.

              TN has two skidoos in his backyard. He uses them exactly once every Summer when he gets two weeks off as the night foreman at a lumber yard. When he gets them in to the water near Cape May and without fail, the Skidoos don’t start and he spends the rest of the vacation yelling at the guy who sold them to him.

              TN is on his own modified Atkin’s diet.

              TN frames and hangs certificates of completion and certificates of appreciation in his study.

              TN has a study.

              TN is making his own canoe.

              TN doesn’t approve of nonsense.

              TN is literally writing a book on grammar.

              TN has 7 shirts. They are all identical, brown, buttoned down, and short sleeved.

              TN calls pants trousers.

              TN disapproves of people wearing shorts or short trousers, as he calls them.

              TN rises in the presence of a lady.

              TN tips his cap to strangers.

              • Plank

                TN only buys postage stamps once a year.

                TN is like many men in that he has a special room he refers to as a man cave and no one else is allowed to enter. There is absolutely nothing in this room.

                TN chooses to represent himself in court.

                As a child, TN never lost a game of tag.

                TN believes there is no greater compliment one can receive than being called ferocious.

                TN still uses a Palm Pilot.

                TN doesn’t approve of nonsense, funny business, or chicanery.

                TN considers himself a soldier in the fight against communism.

                TN doesn’t believe in the use of fiat currency.

                TN is a member of the Tea Party and the 99%.

                TN could survive in the wilds of the northeast indefinitely yet gets enraged when someone refers to him as a survivalist.

                TN doesn’t believe in –isms.

                TN is attempting to start his own telecom company.

                TN spends his time laying down wires for a ‘second internet’

                TN only believes in 13 states since they are the only ones he has seen with his own eyes.

                TN is the shortest member of his family, a fact no one ever brings up.

                • Joey from jersey

                  Plank, you need to get up off the couch in your mother’s basement, fill out that burger king application sitting on the table and find something else to do/obsess about. Way too much time on your hands. The act is beyond old at this point. I do not know Ted and certainly not defending his actions but you are way over the top. Anger management classes may be a good idea.

                  • Plank

                    Haters gonna hate.

                • JohnnyC

                  Source?

                  • Plank

                    That’s all cut and pasted from chapter 8 of his autobiography Nelson on Nelson.

                    Yes, he writes in the 3rd person.

                    • Mickey S

                      Well played Plank, well played. I laughed out loud.

  • jay destro

    The new big trend seems to be going to API and working out as a “catch-all best shape of my life” answer to bad seasons. It’s curious to wonder where his conditioning program has been pre-season for the last few years and how his surroundings have affected it.

  • Slu

    I’d wager that this season is certainly Phil’s last chance to be a starting pitcher for the Yankees.

    • Freddy’s Mom

      I would take that wager. W two more years on his contract why wouldn’t the Yankees give him maximum opp to work out, considering the investment, cost of replacing him, etc? I say max two more seasons to make the grade for Phil, not one, but of course it’d behoove him to do it sooner. If he is not kicking ass after two years he may end up in Japan or the NL.

      I keep going back in my mind to 2010, a game against the Sox at Yankee Stad., late season as I recall, when Phil flummoxed that potent offense. One of two runs, if I recall correctly, on a Swisher error. Phil was throwing changeups in the 70s, his location was totally unpredictable, he was taking risks and looking like a man on a mission. I still have a lotta hope for Hughesy.

      • Bo Knows

        That’s the thing, he has to trust/command that change up. That pitch has above average vertical and horizontal movement, and good velocity the problem is that he can’t throw it for strikes.

        According to texasleaguers the average strike % for a changeup is 60.68%, Hughes % for the change is a little over 53% (still bad but a huge improvement over his 34% in 2010).

        • Freddy’s Mom

          Absolutely, he is afraid to throw the change for strikes, for obvious reasons but that is a mental defect. Logically, the batters are likely to take 75mph pitches, especially curves, so it’s gotta be in there to work.

          It was that 2010 ALDS agains Texas, he got hammered on a change or a curve. I groaned, and thought “Damn, now he will be eternally skittish to throw off speed stuff over the plate.” I suppose it goes against most young pitchers’ grains to throw it slow. Sooner or later a batter will guess right and crush it but we know that this can also happen against 100mph heat. Is it me or does this seem like an area where strong mentoring could help?

    • Hector Noesi

      There are other arms pushing for a spot in the rotation.

      If Phil doesn’t make it work this year, it may simply be because he can not maintain his velocity late into a game and the season. In other words, he may be just the latest failed starter to be shifted to the bullpen. He still might make a fine reliever/closer. That’s his next and final step with the Yankees.

      I do think he’ll be solid in the rotation in 2012. He will probably never be what we once hoped, which was a #1 or #2 starter, but I’ll take a #3.

  • Bronx Byte

    Phil Hughes realizes that 2012 is his put up or shut up year. He knows the Yankee farm system isn’t barren of prospects ready to emerge.

  • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

    Phil Hughes will have a UUUUUUUUUUGE year in 2012. First half 2010 Phil for the entire 2012 season.

    • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

      Which means a 3.65 ERA, close to 200 innings, 8.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.17 WHIP.

      Sign me up.

      • Mattchu12

        In a heart beat. And I don’t think it’s out of the question. I really liked what I saw when he came back in the second half.

  • Rich in NJ

    I’d like to know why the Yankees think that Hughes can still be an effective starter while Joba can’t. Not that I don’t think Hughes can rebound, I do, but I also think Joba can be a good starter as well, and they really don’t have important roles available for either in the pen at this point.

    • Peter R

      “Joba’s stuff plays up better in the pen”…lol. That is the only answer you are likely to ever get out of them.

      My guess is its an injury or mental thing. They think hes gonna hurt himself as a starter or that he doesn’t have the mindset for it.

      Or they really think he has the mindset and better stuff as a reliever..who knows. Doesn’t make much sense to me either.

    • Freddy’s Mom

      Just my opinion, but Joba’s downfall is he can’t master his curve. Same will hold true for Phil* if he doesn’t A) have full arm strength, and B) keep developing his off-speed stuff. Phil is right on the cusp of a breakthrough year. Joba might need a fresh chance somewhere else, maybe w a coach who can find a way into that huge noggin and teach him. Sure would be awesome (actually, I am buzzing a little just imagining it right now!) if they BOTH worked out to be effective starters! Wow. God? Santa? Are you listening?

      * though I doubt the Yanks would pull the plug on him in less than 2 seasons, as stated above.

    • well you know

      I recall a Sunday morning edition of Baseball Tonight in which Buster Olney intoned that (rough paraphrase) “Yankees scouts and management do not believe that Joba Chamberlain can repeat his delivery well enough to be a starter.” This was around the time of the wrap-up of the Phil/Joba “competition” for a starting spot.

      • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

        I remember him saying that too.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      It’s the Yankees when it comes to Joba nothing they do makes sense. If he starts and gets hurt you lose a 6th inning guy. No big loss at all.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    It is a sign of maturity when he acknowledges where his standing is on the team. I am sure he will have a very good 2012.

  • BigBSArteest

    Where is the obligatory AJ Burnett puff piece where he has found his fastball AGAIN? Let’s just wait for ST before we ink these guys into the rotation. I’m not sold yet.

  • BJ

    Sounds like Hughes is doing everything he can do right now to get into form. Good to hear.

    • http://twitter.com/clintholzner Clint Holzner

      Agreed. Who knows what it will lead to, but I’d much rather hear that he is trying than not. Here’s to hoping Phil can get it together.

  • Kosmo

    Hughes has been around now for 5 years. 2012 is in MO a make or break season for Phil in pinstripes. If he´s ineffective, NY will gladly cut bait.
    I´m hoping for a Bartolo Colonesque 2012 season out of Hughes, 165 innings, 4.00 ERA.

  • theyankeewarrior

    Longest, random, dead arm period for a 25 year-old ever.

  • Yu aint Matsuzaka

    When he struck out 12 (I believe it was) batters in that AA playoff game back in 2006 I was a firm believer that this guy at WORST would be a innings eating 4 era pitcher but as of now …

    He’s larry holmes status = flabby and sick.

  • Mike

    Hughes and Joba were probably the most frustrating Yankee prospects I’ve seen in my short lifetime. Huge potential, but were totally mishandled by the organization and showed up fat/out of shape every ST and start of the season. Good to see he’s finally taking himself seriously. Hopefully 200 innings, sub 4 era.

  • Esteban

    Fill Hughes

  • Monteroisdinero

    I’m not putting too much stock in the “getting in shape/he was out of shape camp”. He didn’t look like Wells or Sabathia for God sake-it wasn’t the issue.

    The issue is whether he can get through a lineup 3x with an assortment of pitches. Nova seemed to figure it out.

    Phil needs to work on his 2nd and 3rd pitch and be able to throw them for strikes when behind in the count. He doesn’t throw 95 with location over 6 innings.

    • MattG

      Why is it that because Wells and Sabathia pitch well overweight, anyone can be out of shape? Do you not see the flaw in that argument?

      Hughes at his best threw 93 and missed bats. At his worst, threw 90 and could not put away a batter. I think being in good shape might help here.

  • JohnC

    Hughes, Nova and Noesi are gonna be huge for the Yanks next season. They all must step up and give Banuelos and Betances the time they need in AAA to develop. I wonder if the Yanks will try and resing Brackman to a lesser deal. hate to give up on him just yet.

  • mike

    He will continue to get chance after chance because the Yanks brass has too much tied up in his potential success to not give him a million shots – especially since they have not developed a credible power starter in basically forever, and the starters they do develp are almost successful by accident ( CMW, Nova ) who are basically mid-rotation guys.

    By holding on to him like he was the next Tom Seaver, and not trading him for Santana, Halladay etc, they set the bar really high for him beyond that of a top pitching prospect…he was going to be Santana, but ours and homegrown and cheap! why trade for Santana and pay him when we have our own righ here?

    • YanksFan

      And if the NYY had made that trade for Santana they most likely would not have CC. I take CC every day of the week.

      Further, I don’t hear Mets fans claimining their undying devotion & love for Johan.

      • mike

        What is that Michael kay saying?? :)

        maybe the Yanks have CC and Santana, but not AJ (which is just as likely).

        and until Johan got hurt, he was quite good – especially showing up on short rest down the stretch

        • Plank

          I’m sure Santana will be good for the next 2 years and 55 million too. Ugh.

          Without hindsight, I’m glad the Yankees didn’t make the trade. For me, it was the turning point for the farm system. They transitioned from the Mondesi/Abreu Yankees to the team we have now. I like these teams a lot better. Of course, my favorite Yankees teams had Matt Nokes at catcher, so that doesn’t seem to be a valid barometer of how to run a franchise.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          and until Johan got hurt, he was quite good – especially showing up on short rest down the stretch

          You’ve got the wrong lefty there. Santana’s appeared in four games on short rest in his career and been hit hard each time.

          • mike

            not so – i believe he shut down the Marlins during the collapse of 08 on short rest….maybe the second to last day of the season?

        • CP

          and until Johan got hurt, he was quite good

          That was the huge red flag against trading for Santana. It was that he looked like he may have been injured in the second half of 2007, and more injuries were likely.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      He will continue to get chance after chance because the Yanks brass has too much tied up in his potential success to not give him a million shots

      ———————-

      That’s true so much is tied to Phil Hughes he’s going to get the benefit of the doubt from the fans and FO. Even if he is so so next yr it will be he was worse last yr,I expect a big season in 2013, remember he is only 26, don’t forget he had a jump in innings, etc.

  • Dicka24

    Call me crazy, but wouldn’t now be a good time to consider an extension with Hughes, if you have any belief in his ability? Obviously if the Yankees doubt his prospects moving forward, then you wouldn’t want to, but at the very least, I think Hughes is a high end set-up man, potential closer down the road. Personally I think he’s a legit #3 man in a rotation. The kid is only 25 with what, 400-500 innings? I’d try to sign him to a 4 year extension while his stock is at it’s lowest.

    • MattG

      Yeah, I think you’re crazy. He’s had not only injuries, but mysterious, unexplained injuries to his throwing arm. How confident are you that Hughes will be able to pitch in four years? How about two, or one year?

      • mike

        If they could lock in Phil at 4 yrs/8mm (with bonuses etc to compensate for his arb), knowing he is an OK option out of the pen should the starting gig fall flat, i wouldnt be against it

        • MattG

          This blog post says he is likely to earn 3.4M in one year, so, if he makes it through the season, he will blow past $8M in just two years. $8M/4 years isn’t going to come close.

          • mike

            thats why i couched it with bonuses, incentives etc.

            Im certainly not him, but financial certainty with upside going forward is better than certainty for this year and a great unknown in the future.

            The yanks an insure their contract – Phil cant insure his career

  • Kosmo

    CC
    Nova
    Garcia
    Hughes
    Burnett

    Hmmm ???

    • JobaWockeeZ

      CC, Nova, death, death, death for 16 million.

    • Mattchu12

      Don’t worry, I’ve written a letter to Santa for: CC-Darvish-Danks-Nova-Hughes with Garcia as the long-man since Hughes shines in ST and Burnett is just gone. Anywhere.

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      Kosmo: If Garcia is our #3 than it will be another year of Burnett and Hughes show filled with anxiety.

      • Kosmo

        Larry, I´m praying that won´t be the case ! Bring on Garza, Gio or Danks .

  • Hector Noesi

    Phil, you need to take a break, relax during the offseason and eat lots of food.

    Your Yankee Brother,

    Hector

  • YanksFan

    As I said in a post a few days agree, I believe he will be a solid 3 this season. 7 of 11 starts after coming off the DL were QS and his first where he gave up 2 runs in 5 IP. The 2nd half of 2010, while was far from great, I don’t believe was as bad as perceived to be. How many recaps was there stating he started off great & couldn’t finish off the opp in the 5th/6th? Turning a 1 run/5 IP into a 4 run/6 IP game. I fully believe that last season was the result of the increased IP from 2010.

    Buchholz was in the minors at this age in time and broke out in 2010. I know his peripherals don’t match his stellar ERA but he is still a good pitcher. That happens to young pitchers coming up.

  • Mike HC

    As the article points out, Hughes has had extended stretches of pitching very well. I think he will find the consistency at some point to be a very good major league pitcher. Hopefully this is the year.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Phil Hughes is talented. Gifted with great size but unfortunately the mind must grow with the innings pitched. After 2010 Hughes took for granted that his talent and gifts would equate to a big year. Now he realizes the mind that it takes work. Jeter is an example of a future Hall of Famer constantly making adjustments to be at the top of his game.

    Hughes may have seen the light. I wish him the best but at this point no one’s pushing him from FA,farm or trades.

  • Monteroisdinero

    No changeup and an iffy curve when needed in 2-1, 2-0, 3-1 counts. We can only hope he can get by with his 93 with location and movement. Changing speeds is not Phil’s strength (yet).

  • Rainbow Connection

    I guess ‘dead arm’ could be a legit ‘injury’ if it’s from lifting too much food to one’s face.

  • Ted Nelson

    The whole Hughes thing was definitely odd, but love how so many people have diagnosed him themselves…

    • JohnnyC

      Poor Phil. Hell hath no fury like a sabermetrician scorned.

  • Steve

    Showing up in camp in shape is nice, but it’s something he should have always done. Not only that, but that’s no guarantee his pitches are going to improve. I hope he does well, but I’m wait and see – I don’t have a lot of faith in him as a starter at this point.

  • MattNC

    If Phil’s pitching career doesn’t work out he can always earn a living as a competitive eater.

  • smurfy

    I dunno, Mike. I’d wish for a less inquisitorial interview, one that followed up on “…what you’re capable of doing.” Wondering about how he has been coping, since his arm wasn’t so vigorous.

    Appreciated Bo’s

    Bo Knows says:
    “… has to trust/command that change up… above average vertical and horizontal movement, and good velocity the problem is that he can’t throw it for strikes.

    According to texasleaguers the average strike % for a changeup is 60.68%, Hughes % for the change is a little over 53% (still bad but a huge improvement over his 34% in 2010).”

    or how a hitter sees it. Be great to get some imput from Mssr. Martin. Wonder if Feinsand could try calling? If Phil could get a handle, he’d be unstoppable when his phizzie-zip returns.

  • Hardy

    Just stikck him in the pen where he should be very good.