The young, embattled yet gifted Phil Hughes is still alive, albeit hidden behind arguably the most talented starting rotations the Yankees have comprised over the last six years.
Yesterday, Hughes hit the ground running, striking out the side in his first inning of work with nearly the minimum number of pitches possible.
From the incomprarable Chad Jennings:
The first Triple-A Pirates hitter Phil Hughes faced on Wednesday came to the plate about the same time Alfredo Aceves started making his first-inning warm up tosses on the Double-A field. Hughes finished his inning before Aceves faced his first batter. Ten pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. That’s how Hughes started his day.
For the evergrowing group of Hughes-skeptics, no, there were no radar guns there to estimate Phil’s fastball velocity, though I’m sure he was mostly 91-93 mph.
The most impressive aspect of yesterday’s start was the fact that Hughes posted such a strong line [5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K] while spending much of the outing attempting to refine his changeup and cut-fastball.
Afterwards, Hughes sounded content and confident:
“Everything is kind of where it needs to be,” Hughes said. “It’s been a slow progression through the spring trying to get my pitch count up. My last (spring start) should be up around 100 pitches. I feel good. I feel pretty strong, right where I need to be. I’m looking forward to getting out of Florida.”
According to Jennings, of the five hits he allowed, one was a bloop and one was a bunt single. The only two hard-hit balls were triples the Pirates put into the gaps at Bradenton.
The Scranton Yankees scribe went on to describe how Hughes is currently feeling physically:
He said he feels even better than he did at the end of last season when he plow ed through the Interanational League playoffs, made two solid big league starts down the stretch and struck out 38 batters in 30 innings in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League.
Though Hughes said we was working on his change and cutter, it seems that he is much more comfortable throwing his cut-fastball, claiming “throw it 2-0, 3-1…[s]ometimes I’ll run it in on a lefty and try to get the guy to hit a weak ground ball or something, but for the most part it’s for when I’m behind in the count and they’re looking for a pitch to hit.”
Personally, the changeup seems like the most important pitch Hughes should work on while in AAA this year. Hopefully the 22 year-old does not overlook its importance in favor of his cutter.
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