Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Long layoff equals bad start for Hughes

I was really looking forward to seeing last night's game at Yankee Stadium because I hadn't seen Phil Hughes pitch in person for a couple of months. If I had factored in his long layoff, that would have tempered my enthusiasm.

I hate to make a big deal out of one bad start, but it points to a potential problem for the New York Yankees in implementing the Hughes Rules. It seems that Hughes does not do well with too much time off between starts, which is a major problem if Joe Girardi & Co. stick to their guns when it comes to limiting his innings.

Although the Yankees have never publicized the number, the common guesstimate is 175 innings, leaving Hughes with only about 69 innings left to pitch with more than two full months to go in the regular season. That's roughly about 10 starts of seven innings, unless the Yankees try the Joba Rules approach of limiting his innings per start. We all know how that worked out, but I can't blame them for testing that route given that the skipping of starts hasn't worked for Hughes so far.

I don't think it's time for the Yankees to panic yet and run out and get another starter. But they do have to figure out a way to make the Hughes Rules work for him so that he doesn't lose his groove every time he takes a seat for an extra couple of days. Maybe tossing an inning or two during a long layoff (I don't count the All-Star game appearance because he didn't really get a chance to work through it) will help keep him sharp. But the Yankees have to do whatever they can to help Hughes avoid these bad starts that can shake a young pitcher's confidence.

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