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
Local

Boston Marathon: Marathoners ready to run, honor victims

Scores of runners will cross the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton Monday and embark on a 26.2-mile journey to Boston in honor of the victims.

Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Local

Video: Car crashes into Cambridge store, man arrested…

A Cambridge man was arrested on gun and drug charges after crashing his car into a Massachusetts Avenue storefront early Saturday morning.

Local

Body found believed to be missing Fitchburg boy…

The body of a child found off of a highway in Sterling last week is likely that of missing Fitchburg boy Jeremiah Oliver, authorities said.

Television

'Orphan Black' recap: Episode 1, ‘Nature Under Constraint…

Welcome to your first Season 2 “Orphan Black” recap! Hopefully Tatiana Maslany can help Tatiana Maslany get through this, with the help of Tatiana Maslany,…

Books

Poems from prison: 'How to Survive a Bullet…

Celebrate National Poetry Month with, "'How to Survive a Bullet to the Heart."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.