Daily News sportswriter and TYU fave Mark Feinsand has an update on the 5th starters race. After yesterday’s masterful performance by Hughes, one which he was able to use his long-rumored but rarely seen changeup, it appears Phil is the clear front runner to land the #5 spot. He writes:
If you didn’t consider Phil Hughes to be the frontrunner in the fifth starter’s race before Tuesday night, it’s hard not to think of him that way now.
Hughes did precisely what he needed to, tossing four scoreless innings against the Astros for a save in the 4-1 win.
(Mariano Rivera pitched the fifth inning, prompting Hughes to tell reporters, “That’s a hold for Mo” as he walked into the clubhouse.)
In three outings this spring, Hughes now has a 2.08 ERA, giving up two earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. More impressive, he’s done so while fine-tuning his changeup into a pitch he can trust in big situations.
“I was really happy with my changeup tonight,” Hughes said. “I threw some in counts where normally I would never, ever do it and I got good results.”
That’s absolutely great news, and could transform him as a starting pitcher. In his early work as a starter, many hitters were able to fight off the fastball and pick up on the curve, leading to long at-bats and poor results. He has had much more trouble facing Lefty batters in 2007 and 2008, and even last year he showed a good sized split, though much of that work came out of the bullpen. The change is designed to give him an out pitch facing Lefties, since it tends to fade and drift away from them, inducing poor contact or a swing and miss. With his ability to command and control his fastball, along his plus-plus Curve, a change could take him to the next level as a starter.
Up today is Joba Chamberlain, who needs to show the Yanks something if he is to stay in consideration. According to manager Joe Girardi, time is running out if Joba wants to start.
“You’ve got to pick it up,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve told him that you’ve got to pitch now. We gave you those first couple of starts to get under your belt, and now you’ve got to show us. You’ve got to pitch.“
Who says Spring Training is dull?
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