Poll: Three options with Hughes and Huff

River Dogs season ends on Bird's walk-off single
Girardi confirms Kuroda skipped his between-starts bullpen session
(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

For the third time in the last two weeks or so, left-hander David Huff came out of the bullpen to give the Yankees a quality long relief appearance yesterday. He’s been so effective — one run on six hits and five walks with ten strikeouts in 14 innings across three extended outings — the team should consider putting him in the rotation over the generally ineffective Phil Hughes. Like seriously consider it. Not think about it for two seconds and maintain the status quo.

“I haven’t made any decisions about changing the rotation,” said Joe Girardi to Brian Heyman after yesterday’s win, which isn’t surprising because the Yankees rarely announce a rotation change after a game. That’s something they tend to announce the next day after sleeping on it and talking to everyone involved. Starters only pitch once every five days, so there’s no reason to rush into a decision like that.

The 29-year-old Huff is pretty much a known commodity at this point. He spent parts of three seasons in the Indians’ rotation and pitched to a 5.50 ERA and 4.93 FIP in 258.2 innings. That’s awful. Actually worse than Hughes has been this year. That said, Huff has pitched pretty well of late and sometimes that’s enough of a reason to make a change. Replacing the guy who has been pitching poorly with the guy who has been pitching well isn’t crazy idea, especially when both have track records of being below-average pitchers. Maybe the other guys throws the month of his life. Who knows?

Given the weirdness of yesterday’s game with the rain delay and everything, I see the Yankees having three options with Hughes, Huff, and the rotation. Let’s break ’em down before we vote on which is best.

Option One: Do Nothing
The easiest option and one that always exists. The Yankees could simply leave Hughes in the rotation and start him Saturday against the Red Sox as scheduled. Huff remains in the bullpen and that’s that. Nothing changes. It’s boring and probably a bad idea, but it is a justifiable option given Huff’s career performance as a starter.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Option Two: Replace Hughes with Huff
The second option is pretty straight forward. Take Hughes out of the rotation and replace him with Huff. Simple. Phil joins the middle relief crew — he’s never not been awesome in the bullpen, which would hopefully continue — and Huff gets the ball every five days with a short leash. He was stretched out as a starter with Triple-A Scranton, but it has been a while and he was pretty clearly starting to run out of gas around 55 pitches yesterday (he threw 62 total). That could be because he threw eight pitches on Sunday.

The Yankees won’t get a full 100+ pitches out of Huff, at least not right away, but it’s not like Hughes was giving them much length anyway. He failed to complete five innings of work in four of his last six starts prior to yesterday’s rain-shortened outing. Either way, Girardi & Co. would have to plan to use their bullpen heavily whenever this rotation spot comes up. Thank goodness for September call-ups.

Option Three: Start Hughes on Wednesday
People like the word creative, so let’s call this the creative solution. Because he only threw 20 low-stress pitches before the rain yesterday, the Yankees could start Hughes tomorrow and have his rotation spot avoid the upcoming four-game Red Sox series. The long-term concerns are nil — Phil is almost certainly a goner after the season — and with expanded rosters, there are plenty of extra arms to soak up whatever innings are leftover. Hughes might not be able to give the team a full 100-pitch start on what amounts to one day of rest, but it’s not like he was pitching deep into games anyway.

By starting Hughes against the White Sox on Wednesday, they would push CC Sabathia back to Thursday and let him start against Boston with an extra day of rest. Sabathia has not been good against the Red Sox this year (or anyone else for that matter), but I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’d rather see him out there against Boston than Hughes or Huff. Having the worst starter face a last place team instead of a first place team is the best case scenario.

* * *

Long relievers are like backup quarterbacks in the sense that it always seems like the guy on the bench could do a better job. In reality, there’s usually a very good reason they’re on the bench, or, in this case, the bullpen. Huff’s track record says he would really stink in the rotation, but so does Hughes’. The Yankees are picking between two grenades and hoping they get the one that hasn’t had the pin pulled.

What should the Yankees do with their fifth starter's spot?

River Dogs season ends on Bird's walk-off single
Girardi confirms Kuroda skipped his between-starts bullpen session
  • dan

    Do we have to vote? Can’t they just skip that game?

    • http://riveraveblues.com Matt Warden

      Hope for rain.

      • Mick Scheist

        That’s why the fourth option is at 4% and keep Hughes at 5%.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I say start Huff and have the pen ready just in case. We’ve seen these fringe guys go on nice, short awesome runs before. I still have starry-eyes visions of Dan Giese on occasion. He only has to be good for a few weeks. Might as well see if he’s up for it.

    • JLC 776

      Paging Aaron Small? Shawn Chacon, where are you?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I still can’t believe Aaron Small actually happened. Dude couldn’t crack a Marlin bullpen, post-fire sale, just a year earlier.

        I do think its funny that the Yanks still thought he was a long shot the next year and just made him the long man…..and that it inevitably didn’t work out.

        Chacon wasn’t super far-fetched in a small dose. He at least had promise at one point as a pitcher.

        • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

          I think the Yankees more or less knew how Small 2006 was gonna end from the day they signed the contract. That was a nice little reward for the guy who saved the 2005 season and if the pixie dust continued, great. If not (and it didn’t, obviously) you gave a good guy the only million dollar contract he was ever gonna get.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Yeah….they also thought they had the depth to not have to roll the dice on him as well in 2006.

            Looked at the 2006 BRef page. Some nice, forgotten names out of that bullpen.

        • JLC 776

          I still remember being at Shawn Chacon’s first start for us. The game began with all of us rolling our eyes and ‘blaming Cashman’. We were going nuts for him by the time they took him out.

          Amazing box score as well: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA200507300.shtml

  • trr

    Huff is no saviour, but right now he seems a better option than Hughes – let’s roll with him.

  • JLC 776

    Kuroda seems exhausted, Pettitte is up there in age, and there are big question marks next to CC and Hughes. I would use Huff as a rotating 6th starter and see if a little extra rest can help the staff. Keep Ivan on regular rest.

    What’s the worst that can happen?

    If we’re going to have a shot at this, either CC or Hughes needs to figure out how to pitch again.

  • Frank

    I’ll bite and go with option 3. Doesn’t really matter anyway since CC will get likely only pitch 5+ innings vs. the RS.

  • DERP

    Poll fail, no Brett Marshall option.

    But seriously, I went with three.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    Either the Yankees are gonna make a real playoff push, in which case removing Hughes from the rotation can only be considered a positive,


    The Yankees will basically finish the year where they are now, on the fringes of contention but not really close enough that you think they’re just a really good weekend away.

    In which case nothing was more depressing in the generally depressing 2008 season than watching Carl Pavano and Sidney Ponson play out the string every five days. Phil Hughes would be the 2013 version of that.

    Yank him. And bury him and Joba as deep in the bullpen as possible. Its time to turn the page on these two and move on to the next wave of failed prospects

  • jjyank

    Hm. I’m honestly torn between 2 and 3.

    I’ll lean 2 for now. Roll the dice and see if Huff has a some Aaron Small in him.

    • MannyGeee


  • Pasta Stumbling Sojo

    Option 3 means that Hughes or Huff or some other backup gets one extra start this season and one of CC/Kuroda/Pettitte/Nova gets one fewer start this season, since those 4 would all get pushed back as a result. Yes, 3 of those guys are old and could probably use the extra rest, but I’m not in favor of any plan that results in one of them getting one less start and Hughes/Huff/backup gets an extra start.

    • jjyank

      True. I would ordinarily agree with you, but I am intrigued by #3 because CC and Kuroda could probably benefit from some extra rest right now.

      I’m still leaning #2, but I see some merit with 3.

      • JLC 776

        I think CC and Kuroda desperately need the extra rest, although I’m not sure if rest is exactly what CC needs to get better. A date night with Mussina might help…

        • jjyank

          Yeah, I do think CC needs more than just an extra day. But at this point, it can’t really hurt. Date night with Mr. Mussina is probably a great idea. Anyone know a nice, intimate place in NYC that keeps Captain Crunch in stock?

          Kuroda could probably use an extra day.

          • Cool Lester Smooth

            Or really, just forget Mussina and give him even more Captain Crunch.

            It’s clearly his spinach.

  • Mike

    Start Hughes . . .the first sign of trouble PULL his ass and bury him the bullpen. no time to f around ….. 2.5 games behind the wildcard …. we can’t afford to slip up now

    • MannyGeee

      Without the doom & gloom tone, option 4 (or 2a, as it were) might be to start Hughes and keep the shortest of short leashes on him. Or 3a, the same, just Huff…

      • Mark

        Agree, see if hughes flukes the first time through the order. See how many decent innings you can cheat out of him then bring huff in when he gets into the slightest trouble.

  • Kosmo

    giving the ball to Huff for 4 or 5 of Hughes remaining starts seems fine to me. If Huff can give them 3 OK starts -6 innings 3 runs then so much the better.
    My gut tells me Girardi will ride out the season with Hughes still taking the ball every 5th day.

  • Jersey Joe

    What it comes down to is that Hughes is a two-pitch pitcher. We should be getting him to the bullpen as fast as possible. I would like to see Huff make a few starts.

  • 28 this year

    With Huff, is there any mechanical thing or something about him that has changed from when he was with the Indians? Sometimes that could be an indicator of whether he’s different than before. Just a thought

    • jim p

      Waldman on the radio always refers to Huff telling her that he’s learned more about pitching from the Yanks’ pitching coach than he had his entire previous career.

      Although it’s contrary to the conventional wisdom here at RAB, I have this wild notion that athletes can actually learn things they didn’t know before, and be improved. Admittedly, it’s NEVER happened that they have, but one would think…

  • Will

    Neither, both are bad pitchers.

  • Caballo Sin Nombre

    I choose option 12: “Start Joba”

    • MannyGeee


  • Rolling Donut

    None of this really matters if CC and Kuroda don’t figure it out. With CC it’s weird because he just goes off the rails after 4 or 5 innings of the CC we all know and love. Kuroda is probably gassed. He hit a similar wall last year

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    Hughes to the pen. Joba to the DFA section. Huff/Warren/Marshall to the rotation.

    If we get there after a Hughes Wednesday start to get CC/Hiroki some extra rest, it’s all good with me.

  • elton john cod

    #3 is not happening. It is a creative and unorthodox idea. JoeG is managing. See: sunday’s bullpen; stewart/romine

  • Mike HC

    It is close, but I vote to put Huff in the rotation. It is not like they can’t switch back to Hughes after one or two turns from Huff if it doesn’t work out. Pulling Hughes out of the rotation can’t possibly make him pitch any worse, and if he gets called upon to start again, who knows, maybe it rejuvenates him a little bit.

  • JGYank

    What about Warren? He could replace Hughes. Or we could do something like Hughes/Huff starts and the other finishes the game like Derek Lowe did last year.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Option #3 sounds nice for now, but the Rays did the same thing with Matt Moore not that long ago.


    Brought him back from that night to start two days later against Detroit.


    It actually sent him into a brief tailspin of wretched pitching. Of course this does not mean the same thing will happen to Phil Hughes, but it is something to be concerned about.

    • jjyank

      Fair point. There is a difference in concern level though, since Moore was pitching very well up until that point, where with Hughes, how much worse of a tailspin could he really get sent into?

      It is something to think about though, agreed.

    • Matt DiBari

      How would we tell if it happened to Hughes?

      • 28 this year

        LOL. Nice.

      • MannyGeee

        I was going to go with “wretched pitching is already where we are, so this might just get him right or to spontaneously combust.”

  • Vern Sneaker

    Huff (go with the hot hand) with Warren from the pen if it goes bad. Can’t understand why Girardi would run Hughes out there again.

  • Burnettscreamfilling

    i love option 3 but like someone posted above, i don’t think there is a creativity chapter in Girardi’s notebook…another option is to keep Huff as Hughes backup, the moment Hughes gets in trouble you put in Huff.

    • JohnnyC

      This is the same manager that insists on starters throwing 100 pitches regardless of the quality of those pitches. Again, you’re talking creative, not a word in Girardi’s lexicon (or Cashman’s for that matter).

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        Have you not paid attention to how Cashman structured the Wells and Soriano money?

  • FLYER7

    Gonna wonder why they didnt pick an arm up prior to September 1st, they can still just wont be postseason eligible…and will we see more of Romine now?

    • JohnnyC

      The same reason the GM didn’t want to trade Corey Black, a borderline relief prospect at least 3 years away from the big leagues, for Alfonso Soriano. He punted on the season 2 months ago.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Every dumbass talking point rolled into one comment. Keep up the good work.

  • Scott

    There’s reason to think Huff’s improvement may be for real. Low-90s FB pitchers’ downfall is a high HR rate (Hughes, Phelps, Warren…).Huff always had that high HR rate, even most of his years in AAA.

    BUT: since joining the Yanks, he’s given up only 5 HR in 84 IP (AAA & MLB combined). I think there’s a real chance they taught/persuaded him to keep the ball down (something Warren expressly stressed in an interview, showing it’s a real emphasis). Which is to say his improvement may well be for real.

    • JohnnyC

      I guess Phil Hughes didn’t get the same memo.

      • Scott

        Right, OR Phil got the memo, yet hasn’t been able to be as successful at consistently keeping the ball down, whether (a) because his FB is too straight/rising, or (b) because it’s not easy to make sure that, in a 100-pitch start, you don’t screw up and leave 5-10 fastballs of 92 MPH up in the zone (which spells HR).

        OR maybe Phil will take until age 29 to figure out how to execute consistently, like Huff.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          That’s if you can call 84 IP consistently. Lots of flukey things can happen in 84 IP.

          • Scott

            I’m not ready to sign Huff to a multi-year contract based on 84 IP — but it’s not nothing that, right after joining a new organization, he’s logged 84 IP superior in his worst stat (HR rate) to his prior hundreds of IP. In contast, I haven’t seen Phil post a low-HR-rate 84 IP recently!

            All’s I’m saying is that there’s some evidence — not iron-clad evidence — that Huff is vastly exceeding his prior record for a real reason, not as a pure fluke.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          Or the only way he can get swings and misses is by pitching up in the zone, because he lost his curveball that night in Texas 5 years ago.

  • LarryM Fl

    Option three, push the rotation back one game. Put our best foot forward for the RS games. If Phil pitches well then leave him alone if he gets hammered employ the quick hook then go with Huff. The next time around Huff starts and Hughes to the bullpen.

  • Nathan

    Remove Hughes from the rotation. NOW!

  • CS Yankee

    Number two is the easy choice, I went with three as;
    1) Hughes, in general, has pitched well against the ChiSox in his career.
    2) Pushes the starters back so they can go with three lefties against the BloodSox, plus Nova.
    3) If Hughes bombs against the ChiSox, they can put him just in front of Joba and Dellin…but well after Mo,Drob,PreCla, Lo & Co.

  • Bryan

    I went with 1. Call me crazy but I don’t trust Huff at all. Hughes is what he is. He isn’t as bad as we make him out to be nor is he ever going to be more than a back end starter here. He has had times where he was the best pitcher on the staff as well as other times this bad before. The Yankees are in the midst of a playoff spot. They are all of 3 games away. This choice to me is like picking between a big black box with a question mark on it or a shit sandwich with some delicious sweet baby rays BBQ sauce on top. You have no clue what you are going to get on the one hand with the box. It could be great. It could be terrible. It could be the worst thing ever. Or you go with the shit sandwich. Yeah, it has baby Ray’s on it, and really, baby Ray’s is the bomb and makes anything taste good. But it is still shit. And shit is never a good call for a sandwich.

  • Fin

    I really don’t think it matters much, I’ll trust the Yankees gut feeling on this one. Also, I have no more faith in CC against a good team than I do in Hughes, they are both fucking awful. It would be interesting to see what the Yankees would have done with CC and Hughes if all of their pitchers where healthy. Would the Yankees have had the courage to throw CC in the pen like the Giants did with Timmy (Personally I don’t think they would)?