Watching the game last night, I was quite upset when I saw Brian Bruney enter the game in the 8th inning. While I like Bruney and believe that he can be the 8th inning guy (if you feel the need to have such defined roles), the obvious call was to leave Phil Hughes in the game. Hughes had breezed through the 7th inning on 9 pitches, and Joe Girardi had said previously that Hughes was to be used without any restraints. As Joe said (courtesy of Pete Abe
“He is a full-fledged reliever now. I won’t hesitate to bring him in in any situation at this point,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We still consider him a starter, but right now he’s filling a void for us…….I’m not hesitant to do that with him. I think he’s very capable of being a two-inning reliever, a three-inning reliever for us,” the manager said. “I won’t do that necessarily to build up his innings, I’ll do it because I believe he can do it and do it well.”
If Joe really means this, last night seemed to be a perfect time to have Phil pitch two innings. However, with the bottom of the order coming up for Seattle, I could understand trying to get Bruney going against softer opposition, so the move was not indefensible. The real issue to address here is what the future holds for Hughes:
“I can’t look Mariano Rivera in the face and say, ‘I’ve weakened your bullpen for the future.’ It’s a balancing act and it’s a tough one,” Cashman said. “It’s hard. The short-term goal is you have to win as many games as you can to get into the postseason. If you do that, the next goal comes in line. In Phil’s case, that’s to get some innings. There’s a collision there you have to deal with.”
It seems pretty clear from this quote that Hughes is going to stay in the majors for the rest of the season unless he falters out of the bullpen. The Yankees are going to do what is best for the 2009 team, and then stick Phil in the rotation to get 180 innings next season. While I have no problem with that, I think it is imperative that they use Phil properly in the majors. If they are going to delay his development, they need to maximize his value at the big league level. As Steve Lombardi states:
This all said, I think it’s time for the Yankees to start using Phil Hughes exactly how Mariano Rivera was used in 1996. Have Hughes set up for the closer. Make the 8th inning his inning. In fact, just like Rivera was used in ‘96, have Hughes pitch the 7th and 8th innings of games, where needed, to get to your closer.
I totally agree. Hughes needs to be the late inning relief ace, brought in during tough spots and left in for up to two innings. Furthermore, the Yankees need to be clear with Phil about his future. Otherwise, we may start hearing quotes like this:
“I feel like I have more control, my stuff plays up a little bit,” Hughes said. “It feels like a good fit for me. Who’s to say what the future will be? Maybe this is what I do for the rest of my career.”
You are a starter, Phil. Don’t be getting any wise ideas.
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