Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins got back to work in a Spring Training matchup with the Miami Marlins. Outfield prospect Byron Buxton went an unfortunate 0-5 in his first preseason start, and the Twins were eventually bested, 3-1. Minnesota’s hot offense failed to show up in their sixth game of the spring, as they struggled their way to only four hits.
Under the warm Florida sun, Phil Hughes toed the rubber for the Twins in his first start of the spring. The former New York Yankee is coming off a disappointing season and hopes to bounce back with Minnesota in 2014. Overall, Hughes looked solid in his first outing; in 2 2/3 innings, he allowed a run on two hits and a walk, but also struck out three, including the last batter he faced. Hughes showcased his stuff well, but even more importantly, he sported a loosely-buttoned red jersey, a gruff beard, and a smile.
Agreeing to a three-year, $24 million contract this offseason made Hughes the second largest free agent signing in Twins history. Even after a 2013 season where he was 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA, Minnesota saw enough in Hughes to make a substantial commitment in his future. Over part of seven seasons in the MLB, he’s posted a career record of 56-50, thrown to the tune of a 4.54 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Having already put together a combination of great seasons and terrible seasons, Hughes’ inconsistency helps label him as an average fourth or fifth starter in the big-leagues. His potential, however, could prove to be uncapped following a much needed change of scenery.
A predominantly fly-ball pitcher stuck in the confines of homer-happy Yankee Stadium, Hughes posted a 6.32 ERA, and allowed 17 home runs in as many starts at home last season. This opposed to a 3.88 ERA and only seven home runs allowed in 13 road starts. Hughes has allowed 76 of his 112 career home runs at Yankee Stadium, but allowed only 36 long-balls away from it. In his 87 career road appearances, hitters have produced a .245/.306/.384 line, which is down from a .274/.328/.479 line in 95 career appearances at The House That Ruth Built.
Hughes and pitcher-friendly Target Field will gladly welcome each other in 2014. Now away from the concrete jungle and a seemingly uptight New York Yankee organization, Hughes has recently mentioned that he loves the Twins’ laid back atmosphere, and is further excited about having a house with an actual backyard. He remains only 28 years old and should have plenty of high points to build from in the upcoming season.
Look for a relaxed and revamped Hughes to have a solid 2014 with Minnesota, and potentially a long career in a Twins uniform.