After going 2 2/3 innings and yielding four earned runs to the Texas Rangers last night, New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes was pulled by manager Joe Girardi. Without looking at the manager, Hughes handed him the ball and walked to the dugout. Had he been in Yankee Stadium, the young hurler most certainly would not have been met with cheers. In fact, if the reaction in Twitter was any indication, he may have needed a police escort off the mound.
Initially, I too was caught up in the frustration of the moment. I so badly want the 26-year-old to succeed. We New York Yankees fans have been treated like Nicholas Cage‘s character “Jack” in the movie “The Family Man“, and Hughes has played Don Cheadle‘s role of “Cash”. He has given us a glimpse of just how good he can be, and we refuse to let go of it.
After a while, sanity began creeping its way back into my head, and looking more closely at the situation I realized that we just need a little more patience. Now, before you grab your torches and point the pitchforks you’ve had stationed outside of Brian Cashman’s office at me, hear me out.
Yesterday was only game 18 of 162 in the New York Yankees 2012 season. That was only the fourth start for Phil Hughes. Remember spring training and how it was noted that Hughes reported to camp in visibly better shape? Remember the reports about how he had re-dedicated himself to coming to camp fit and ready to hit the ground running? Remember the 1.56 ERA and 1.10 WHIP he produced over 17 innings on the mound? Yes, it was just a New York Yankees spring training, but there was a reason he won a spot in the rotation, and not just because Michael Pineda came up lame.
We cannot dismiss his off-season work in just four starts, but I also realize we can’t bank our hopes on what he did in the spring. Instead, I am basing my patience with Hughes on a couple of things I witnessed last night.
First, the velocity he lost last year has returned, and his breaking balls seemed very sharp. Most of his issues looked to stem from pitch location. That is something that can be corrected through work with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
The second reason I believe we New York Yankees fans need to give Phil Hughes some slack comes from former major leaguer Ken Singleton’s post-game analysis for the YES network. When asked what to make of Hughes performance, Singleton noted it seemed to him that Hughes was great the first time through the lineup, but the next time through it looked like he was using the same sequence of pitches to the batters – in short, he wasn’t changing things up. He went on to add that major league hitters are smart enough to remember a pitch sequence from at-bat to at-bat, and perhaps that can explain some of the pitcher’s demise.
If that is truly the case then can Phil Hughes be held solely accountable for last night’s results? Wouldn’t catcher Russell Martin and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi have to share some of the blame? After all, isn’t Martin the one putting the signs down for the young pitcher? If Girardi is calling the pitches then he too would have to be held accountable for what Singleton observed. Ultimately, Hughes throws the pitch but, given what he has gone through, how often would he actually shake off what Martin calls for?
Perhaps I have too much of “Jack Campbell” in me and refuse to see the reality of the situation, but we’ve had a “glimpse” into how good Phil Hughes can be for the New York Yankees. I think he needs to be given some more time, and rather than call for a replacement, we need to choose Hughes.