Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hughes shows maturity in avoiding Lee distraction

No one would have blamed Phil Hughes for becoming unhinged by all the Cliff Lee talk, but the youngster showed a maturity beyond his years by responding with a brilliant performance.
The New York Yankees weren't getting Lee to send him to the bullpen, so one of the Yankees current starters would have had to make the move barring a trade. Given the team’s determination to protect his priceless right arm, Hughes was the most likely candidate. His success as Mariano Rivera's set-up guy last year would have increased those odds, especially factoring in Joba Chamberlain's Jekyll and Hyde routine. But it would have been unfair to Hughes, given his hard work and success in becoming one of the best young starters in baseball.

If I was Hughes, I would have been livid about the prospect of being sent back to the bullpen after an All-Star first half. Even just the talk would have created bad feelings for me and might have affected my performance on the mound. But not Hughes. He responded with his strongest outing in weeks, giving up only one run in seven solid innings of work, just another sign of his maturity and why his future as the Yankees ace is secure.

Hughes said the Lee trade talk didn't distract him, that he was more focused on the guys with the bats in their hands than on Lee. Now he doesn't have to worry about moving back to the bullpen to make room for someone else. He can head to the All-Star game, proud of his first-half performance, as he should be.

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