So far Phil Hughes is off to another dreadful start with the New York Yankees and has failed to get out of the fourth inning so far in his two starts this season. For those of you already hitting the panic button, calm down. This is, well, it isn’t abnormal for Hughes to struggle early on in a season. Oh, and let’s also not forget that Hughes missed almost all of spring training because of injury and was pulled from his rehab start in Triple-A to instead start against the Detroit Tigers.
I’m not making excuses for Hughes. Well, maybe I am but not purposefully. It’s just that what we have from Hughes isn’t new. Let’s take last year as an example. Hughes had a rough April, very rough. He went past the fifth inning only once, pitching 5.1 innings in his third start of the year against the Minnesota Twins. Hughes gave up only two runs in that start and got his only win of the month. For the month of April Hughes posted a 7.88 ERA and went 1-3 with 17 strikeouts and walked six. He also allowed five home runs across those four April starts. Aside from giving up home runs, Hughes managed to work out the kinks and was a productive member of the rotation last year.
In 2011, Hughes was even worse in April. He allowed 16 runs across three starts that year and left April with an ERA of 13.94 and struck out only three while walking four. The 2011 season was far from Hughes’ best. He finished with a 5.79 ERA and battled injuries. However, Hughes’ slow start in 2013 is nothing to be alarmed over just yet. He might just be a slow starter.
Like hitters, sometimes pitchers take a while to find their groove. Perhaps the cold weather causes problems with their grip. Maybe the arm isn’t strong enough yet. There could be one hundred different reasons. Hughes’ body is still in spring training basically. He lost a lot of time this spring due to injury and the Yankees shockingly brought him right up to the club without making even one rehab start so right now this is kind of expected.
Relax when it comes to Hughes and his slow start. By mid-May he should be back to the Hughes you have come to expect. There is no need to move him to the bullpen as some Yankees fans are calling for and no need to trade or demote him as others are advocating for. Relax, take a breath, and realize it will get better.