Phil Hughes and Raul Ibanez Reward The New York Yankees For Their Patience

By Steve Skinner

The 2012 road for two New York Yankees has certainly been rocky, to say the least.  One is a 40 year-old veteran outfielder signed in February with the hopes of re-emerging as a powerful, left-handed threat at the plate.  The other is a young 26 year-old hurler who somehow lost his way in 2011, but showed up to spring training in the best shape of his once-promising career.

Raul Ibanez and Phil Hughes entered this season with the hopes of rekindling success they once enjoyed, and until recently it looked as though neither would.

The New York Yankees brought Ibanez in with the expectations that he would be the left-handed designated hitter (platooning with Andruw Jones), and occasionally spot start in the outfield to provide days off to the regulars.  It was only 3 years ago that he was selected to the National League all-star team in route to a  34 HR, 93 RBI season with the Philadelphia Phillies – his fourth straight season with at least 90 runs driven in.  Over the past two seasons he saw a drop in his production, culminating in a .245 batting average for 2011 – the outfielder’s lowest since 2000.  With word that in the off-season Ibanez had discovered a flaw in his swing, the New York Yankees signed him to a one-year $1.1 million deal and counted on him to provide valuable power from the left side of the plate.

Throughout spring training and most of April, Raul Ibanez showed little proof that his struggles had ended.  In 60 pre-season AB he hit .150 with just a .333 slugging pct, and he completed the first month of the season with a .241 batting average.  It looked as though the New York Yankees expectations for the 17-year veteran were not going to be met.

In 2010 Phil Hughes was an all-star, going 18 – 8 as a 24 year-old for the Bronx Bombers.  The future seemed bright for the rising star, and he was promised a spot in the starting rotation for 2011.  That guaranteed role as one of the starting five for the New York Yankees soon dissipated into utter disappointment as Hughes showed up to last season’s camp out of shape and with a much documented loss of velocity.  He ended up appearing in only 17 games and lost the spot in the rotation by throwing to a 5.59 ERA.  Many wondered if the once-promising star had become nothing more than a footnote for the Bombers, and their fears seemed warranted as Hughes finished this April 1 – 3 with a 7.88 ERA.

As the age-old anecdote goes “April showers bring May flowers”, so did the troubles of April blossom renewed hope in May for Raul Ibanez and Phil Hughes.

The first 12 games of May have seen Ibanez raise his average to .282 and his slugging percentage to .889.  In fact, over his last 5 games he has hit 4 HR and driven in 9 – both more than he did for all of April.

For Hughes, the results have been similar as in three May starts he is 2 – 1 with a 3.60 ERA – once again establishing himself in the rotation.

Both New York Yankees can attribute their turnaround to one simple thing: patience.  The willingness of manager Joe Girardi, as well as the rest of the New York Yankees organization, to stick with these two athletes, in spite of calls for their demotions, is now paying off.  With Ibanez once again a legitimate threat in the lineup, the New York order appears the deepest it has been since the beginning of the season, and with Hughes’ new-found success, the team seems to have regained confidence in the rotation as a whole.

April is now in the rear-view mirror for the New York Yankees, and their fans can take a valuable lesson from the actions of the club in regards to Phil Hughes and Raul Ibanez.  You have to believe in the reasons these players are on the roster.  They aren’t there by accident.  Hughes and Ibanez are there because they have the talent to help the team succeed, and this month they are proving it.


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