It wasn’t so long ago that Phil Hughes‘ status in the New York Yankees rotation was on somewhat shaky ground.
The right-hander had lasted all of seven innings through his first two starts on the year, having given up eight runs on 17 hits in the process. After a three-homer debacle on April 13, the critics had come out in full force.
Time to use David Phelps, they said. Time to cut bait with Hughes, because he’s never going to put up performances amounting to the talent and hype that once made him one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Time to try some other options, because he’s going to be a free agent next year, and it’d be a mistake for the Yankees to bring him back.
Well, how quickly things can change in two weeks.
Though Hughes won’t get the bulk of the attention after the Yankees’ come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, he was perhaps even more instrumental in helping the team secure the four-game series sweep than Lyle Overbay, who is the de facto hero of the day after hitting a go-ahead two-run homer to put the team up in the late innings.
Sure, he’d actually left the game in line to take the loss after giving up two runs, but that shouldn’t take away from how well he pitched through his six innings. Though he might have run out of gas in the sixth (110 total pitches), he had his stuff working for the majority of his start, retiring 10 of his first 11 batters, and giving up no extra base hits until his final frame.
That’s not even considering the fact that he struck out a season-high nine batters, something the righty accomplished just twice in 2012.
It’s the 26-year-old’s third straight quality start, and he’s now owns a 2.70/1.10 ERA/WHIP in that 20-inning stretch with a 9.45 K/9. Most impressively, though, is his control, as Hughes now owns a career-best 1.67 BB/9 through his five starts after handing out just one free pass on Sunday.
Will he run into a bad stretch again sometime this season? Probably, but as the Yankees have seen over the last few weeks, he’s capable of plenty of good runs, too.
There is little doubt that this is a gifted (though homer-prone) pitcher when he goes out there, and if Hughes showed anything on Sunday, it’s that early reports/clamoring of his demise as a Yankees starter were greatly exaggerated.