Four years ago at rainy Yankee Stadium, Phil Hughes made his major-league debut. Since his four-inning debut against the Blue Jays, Hughes has been injured twice, become an effective reliever and faced an innings limit.
Now he is anxiously waiting to see where the mysterious dead arm saga will next take him after two MRI examinations yesterday at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Hughes will have further tests today after spending four hours in MRI tubes and being tested for blood pressure and circulation.
“If they find something, they find something,” Hughes said. “I’m just anxious to figure out what’s going on. I talked to the doctor this morning and (they) basically want to get as many tests done as possible so we can paint a clear picture of exactly what’s going on. As much information as we can gather, basically – the more the better.”
Hughes has spent a lot of his brief career talking about those topics and now seems at a loss to explain why his arm is dead, saying things like it’s hard to describe and the cause seems to be unknown.
“I’m surprised that it got this far, but it is what it is,” Hughes said. “I need to figure out what issues I’m having and get some sort of program in order to get healthy. That’s really all I can do.”
It is possible the cause could be the significant spike in innings, which is something Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci speculated in a January article. In that piece, Verducci cited 11 at-risk pitchers whose innings increased by at least 30 during 2010.
Hughes was one of them since his 192 innings pitched were 46 more than his previous career-high in 2006 with Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
“Yes, he’s thrown 160 innings before in the minor leagues,” manager Joe Girardi said. But, the jump from last year to the year before was somewhat substantial. And then you make the playoffs. Does that have something to do with it – possibly. Those are reasons why we put innings limits. And sometimes we take innings limits on pitchers, but if everything comes back, that’s what you point to.
“I think that’s why we talk about why we’re careful. Everybody is unique, and everybody is going to respond differently to different workloads. I mean, no one can say that two bodies are alike. So what is going on with Phil, we may not see here for the next 20 years. We don’t know why he’s having his issues, but we’re trying to find out.”
Hughes is not the only Yankee cited by Verducci.
Ivan Nova also appears on that list after throwing 187 innings, 38 more than his previous career-high in 2008. Nova took the mound last night with a 7.63 ERA in 15 1/3 innings as he continues fading around the fifth inning of starts.
Others on that list are Madison Bumgarner, Alex Sanabia, Mat Latos, David Price, Brandon Beachy, Brett Cecil, Gio Gonzalez, Dillon Gee and Travis Wood.
Below is the performance of three struggling pitchers, who had significant increases in innings during 2010.
Bumgarner: Threw 111 regular-season innings for the Giants and 214 overall, an increase of 73 from his previous high. In four starts, he is 0-3 with a 7.79 ERA with a slight increase in fastball velocity.
Sanabia: Threw 171 innings for the Marlins a 66-inning increase. Sanabia has yet to pitch anywhere and currently is on the DL with a strained forearm.
Latos: Threw 184 innings for the Padres, a 61 2/3 inning increase. Latos is 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA in three starts and slightly diminished velocity after opening this year on the DL with a shoulder injury.
It has not affected Gonzalez, who is 2-2 for the Athletics nor Price who has pitched 36 2/3 innings for Tampa Bay. It’s too early to tell the impact on Gee, who has pitched well in two starts for the Mets and is currently in their bullpen.
“There’s been enough data that you have to be smart about it.