Yankees Notebook: Phil Hughes reflects on move to the bullpen

Phil Hughes and the Yankees fell to the Rangers Thursday at Yankee Stadium. (Getty Images)
Phil Hughes has been moved back to the bullpen role he succeeded in during the 2009 championship season.
Credit: Getty Images

Phil Hughes was introspective about his lost season as a member of the Yankee rotation, noting that it was ironic the season went so poorly even though his velocity has been better than in a few years.

Velocity rarely led to poor execution of pitches, which is why Hughes found himself discussing a demotion to the bullpen Wednesday afternoon after the Yankees decided to give David Huff the start in his next scheduled turn Saturday against the Red Sox.

Hughes was unsure of what led to his 4-13 record, which saw him go 2-11 with a 5.12 ERA over an 18-start stretch beginning when he allowed seven runs and recorded just two outs in a 12-2 loss to Seattle on May 15.

A lack of execution on pitches led to hitters having a .285 batting average and .820 OPS against him. Those numbers have inflated to .336 and .915 since the All-Star break.

“It’s hard to say,” Hughes said. “You go through your ups and downs in every season. It just seems like this year particularly has been a lot of downs. You go back and think about what you did to be successful, and its one thing to think about it and it’s another thing to actually execute it.

“Obviously I have a game plan every start of what I want to do; sometimes it’s just you’re able to execute it and sometimes you’re not.”

Hughes was once rated the fourth-best prospect in the minors by Baseball America and made his debut as a starting pitcher in April 2007 when the Yankees were in need of arms and Joe Torre’s job security was getting threatened. After a lost 2008 due to injuries, he filled in for a while for Chien-Ming Wang in 2009 before moving to the bullpen.

While being part of the late-inning bridge to Mariano Rivera, Hughes was among the more dominant eighth-inning men the Yankees have had. Besides being 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA in 44 appearances, opponents had a .172 batting average and a .456 OPS.

In that stint, he fanned 65 in 51 1/3 innings while producing a .257 batting average on balls put in play. During that time, the velocity on his four-seam fastball averaged 94.5 mph.

This year the Yankees are mostly set in the late innings with Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan serving as the lead-ins to David Robertson and Rivera. How Hughes gets used could be a combination of situations, primarily based on the availability of others. The Yankees are banking on the experience of seeing him dominate in short bursts four years ago to translate into this stint.

“I’ve seen him do it before,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So he should have confidence he could do it, so we’ll just see.”

“I think that’s true for anybody,” Hughes said of many starters having better stuff when going to the bullpen. “When you know you’re just out for an inning or two, everyone’s stuff bumps up a little bit too. We’ve seen it time and time again from anybody who used to be a starter and going to the bullpen kind of gives you a little bit of extra juice.”

As for Huff, he has allowed one run in 19 innings over nine appearances. His most notable outings were Monday’s 5 2/3 innings stint against the White Sox and a five-inning scoreless stint against the Blue Jays two weeks ago.

“Huff’s been throwing the ball extremely well and I haven’t,” Hughes said.

Huff is 17-26 with a 5.41 ERA in 52 career starts. All of those came with the Indians, who made him a first-round pick in 2006 out of UCLA.

Huff’s last appearance saw him throw 48-of-62 pitches for strikes and 15 first-pitch strikes to 20 hitters. Included in that outing was an impressive 12-pitch sequence against Alexei Ramirez, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.

“I’m just going to go out there and try to win a ballgame and put up some zeros,” Huff said. “That’s it. It’s always exciting, but I’ve got to go out there and do what I’ve always been doing, and that’s attacking the hitters and making them uncomfortable out there. If I get away from that, we’re going to have some issues.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…