By Glenn Giangrande
Me thinks it’s time to proclaim Phil Hughes a reliever for the remainder of the 2009 season.
A few days ago while driving to the New York Islanders Draft Party at Nassau Coliseum, a.k.a The John Tavares Spectacular, Joe Girardi was on WFAN talking about how the Yankees will, in a few weeks, lose the ability to stretch Hughes out as a starter down at Triple-A. There’s no doubt that his Major League future lies in starting. He was the top prospect in all of baseball just a few years ago. He should help the Yankees’ rotation for a long time to come.
As far as the here and now is concerned, his performance out of the ‘pen should speak for itself.
By throwing 1.2 scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday night, Hughes lowered his ERA as a reliever to 1.50 in 12.0 IP. He’s pitched in seven games, allowing runs in just one of them – a pair of them at Fenway Park on June 10th, when he threw 3.2 IP in relief of an ineffective Chien-Ming Wang. His fastball is humming in the mid-90s. He’s been close to unhittable. Given the other options the Yanks have for the rotation, Hughes’ power arm in the ‘pen is a major asset.
Let’s assume the Yankees make it to October. They’ll only need four starters, with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte the locks. Joba Chamberlain has made big strides in the rotation in recent outings, and Wang appears to be making his own steps in the right direction. Why mess with a good thing? If Brian Bruney can stay healthy for the remainder of the year, he and Hughes would be a formidable 1-2 late inning punch in front of Mariano Rivera. Then Alfredo Aceves can stay in his “swing” role of being able to set-up or settle things down early. If David Robertson and his 2.60 ERA are able to handle some high leverage innings, the Yanks will have cobbled together a pretty solid bridge to Mo.
There’s no reason Hughes shouldn’t be a part of it, if only for this year.