Andy Pettitte will probably make his major league debut something in the next two weeks. Unless something radically changes, he will take Freddy Garcia‘s spot in the rotation. Freddy, for his part, has been making this a pretty easy decision for the Yankees. Its made further easier because Garcia is 35 years old, and on a one-year contract. The Yankees don’t really lose anything long term by cutting him.
Had Michael Pineda not suffered a set back, the decision to pull Phil Hughes from the rotation would be just as easy. Pineda is clearly a better long term option in the starting rotation than Hughes at this point in their careers, and it makes no sense for him to pitch in the minor leagues. With Nova, Pettitte, Sabathia, and Kuroda entrenched in their rotation spots, Hughes gets bumped by default.
Without Michael Pineda, who at this point risks being out a very long time with shoulder problems, the decision is a little bit harder. David Phelps offers an effective option at starting pitcher. Phil Hughes, while he has maintained a great 10.1 K/9 rate, has been hit around pretty terribly this season. He has allowed 14 runs (10 earned) in 13 1/3 innings. He’s had trouble finishing off batters, and has had a tendency to leave pitches up, leading to home runs and hard hits.
I’m generally in favor of acting quickly on roster decisions. At this point, what is the difference that we can expect in performance between Phil Hughes, even if things go reasonably well for him, and David Phelps? I’ve lost hope that Hughes will be a star one day. I think he’s got a shot at being a decent option in the back end of the rotation, but so does Phelps. And Phelps is not currently suffering from all the problems that Hughes is. He’s been an effective pitcher in long stints, and should be able to transition seamlessly.
All of that said, Hughes’ strikeout rate encourages me. The eye test tells me that he’s mixing his pitches more than previous years, and has been better at challenging batters. This has resulted in a lot of pitches being left in bad parts of the zone, but it is an improvement over last year. I think he deserves a few more starts in order to try and right the ship.
How long should Phil Hughes get? I’m going to say that the Yankees should switch him with David Phelps at the same time that Andy Pettitte comes in. That should give him 2 or 3 more starts to figure things out. Otherwise, David Phelps is your 5th starter until the return of Michael Pineda.
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