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

Pennsylvania police shooter manhunt near home of suspect's…

A police manhunt intensified on Friday for the gunman who killed an officer and wounded another in an ambush at a Pennsylvania police barracks a week ago.

Local

MAP: New York City street closures, September 19,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on September 19, 20 and 21. There will be many streets and…

Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Television

'Outlander' Season 1, Episode 7: 'The Wedding'

Claire and Jamie are man and wife!!! Like, ALL THE WAY, if you know what we mean. (Twice.)

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…