From Chad Jennings:
No, Hughes doesn’t know exactly how many innings he’s allowed to throw this season. He hasn’t asked. The only thing he asked when the Yankees told him his turn was being skipped this week was whether he’d have to miss another start before the all-star break. The Yankees assured him that, for now, it’s only this start that’s being skipped.
“I assume there are going to be some scenarios where something needs to happen in the second half,” Hughes said. “I can’t imagine one start prior to the all-star break being the breaking point of my innings limit. I didn’t ask about the second half because it’s so far off.”
Girardi said the Yankees are hoping to avoid last year’s Joba Chamberlain situation. The early season injury to Chien-Ming Wang kept the Yankees from being able to skip Chamberlain early last season, and they were forced to give him those strange three- and four-inning starts late in the year.
“Obviously you’d love to be able to say in spring training, here’s the plan, here’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “You’re going to average 6.1 innings per game and you’re going to get to your innings limitation on September 30. But the one thing I’m not going to do is I’m not going to jeopardize the game that he’s pitching in because of his innings limitation. If he’s dealing through six and it’s a 2-1 game, I’m not taking him out because of his innings limitation. We’ll worry about (later) and we’ll adjust.”
When listening to Boomer and Carton on WFAN this morning, I was struck by the sheer number of fans who believe innings limits are just a bunch of hogwash. Carton, in particular, said something like “They are paying him 400K a year, there is no investment, so what’s the big deal? Just let him pitch.” This is a silly point that really misses the concept behind player development.
The Yankees have a lot of resources tied up in Phil Hughes. He received a signing bonus from them and years of instruction in their system, meaning a lot of money, time and effort has gone into molding Phil into the potential star he is today. More importantly, having a guy who you can pay “just 400K” in your rotation means that you do not have to pay the A.J. Burnett’s of the world a lot more than they are worth in order to build a competitive rotation. Player development is not just about filling your team with homegrown talent. It is about giving your club the option to pass on expensive free agents if their price outweighs their value.
For that reason, protecting Hughes is the right move. Managing pitcher workloads is an inexact science, as each pitcher is different and will react in a unique manner to particular levels of work. The Yankees have to do everything they can to decipher Phil’s limitations and tailor a plan accordingly. They seem to have a target number in mind (many have speculated that it is somewhere around 175 IP) and will skip him every so often to ensure that he meets, but does not exceed, that total. While it may be annoying to have the club sit down their best pitcher during a pennant race, it is the most prudent move for the future of the franchise.
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