Get ready B-Jobbers, your prayers may soon be answered, just with a different highly touted Yankee Farmhand. For those of you who were opposed to the B-Jobbers, get ready to put your hand over your knee because it is about to jerk upward.
On today’s YES broadcast, David Cone and Paul O’Niell discussed extensively about the possibility of moving Hughes to the bullpen once Wang is ready. John Kruk also brought it up on ESPN. I assume that it wasn’t just idle speculation, but something they were already hearing being kicked around by the Yankee brass. They were certainly discussing it as a realistic possibility, and Coney (who’s a big fan of Hughes) recounted how he began his MLB career in and out of the bullpen for the first 3 season and how important that was for his development.
While I was firmly in the ‘Joba Starts’ camp, I would understand and support this move if it was to happen. It makes sense for the following reasons:
- We certainly need bullpen help right now. Nobody out there throws strikes on a regular basis and the guys we’ve brought up from AAA haven’t worked out. Hughes may still be learning the ropes on the MLB level, but he throws strikes. There’s no point having one of your best arms in AAA when the MLB club cant get outs in the late innings. This was the rationale used when Joba was called up to be a reliever, and it applies here as well.
- I have always felt that Phil’s main problem was simply building confidence. His last start was a great example of that, where he came out looking great and throwing strikes to the first three batters. Then Morneau hits the HR off a decent pitch, and he walks the next two batters and isn’t the same the rest of the game. Limiting his exposure and using him in spots where he will be successful will give him the MLB experience he needs and build his confidence, which will be good for Hughes long term development as a starter. Its been done many times with many starters, Chad Billingsley being a recent example. That Joba kid turned out pretty good as well.
- He has nothing left to prove at AAA. The things he needs to learn will only happen on the big league level, so sending him down does little to further his development. Its a waste of time for both Phil and the Yankees. All he would get out of it is innings, which can be addressed elsewhere. So again, its good for his long term development as a MLB starter.
- The farm exists to fill the needs of the MLB club. The MLB club is not there to develop players, it is there to win games. Especially a win-now team like the Yanks are. The Yankees aren’t there to serve Hughes and his needs, Phil is there to serve the needs of the team. I’ll guess that if you ask Phil, he’ll take a MLB bullpen role over another AAA assignment.
- I’m sure the Yanks share my view of Hughes as a starter long term, so if this move was made he would certainly not log enough innings this season. He’s at 36 IP right now, and Cashman says Wang will get another start in AAA, so lets call that 42 IP. Figure he would add another 50-60 as a reliever this year. Then he can pick up another 30 innings in the Arizona Fall League/Winter Ball as they did with him last year. That puts him at 120-130 for the season, which is more than enough to make him the 5th starter next year without any restrictions.
I know that sending starters to the bullpen has become a divisive issue among Yankee fans, engendering knee jerk reactions from both sides. I take these on a case by case basis, and I think it will be both good for the Yanks this season and good for Hughes’ development. And yes, as a starter.
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