Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hughes adopting young Jeter's healthy attitude

Phil Hughes isn't taking anything for granted this year, coming into spring training like he is fighting for his job even though he is penciled into the #2 or #3 spot in the starting rotation of the New York Yankees rotation. It’s a good approach. It reminds me of a young Derek Jeter.

In 1996, Joe Torre was taking over as manager of the Yankees and was asked in spring training about the shortstop position, which had been in a constant state of flux for years. He told reporters that Jeter would be the shortstop. The young Jeter was asked the same question and replied that he was being given an opportunity to win the shortstop job. Well, we know how that turned out. Not only did he win the job, he was an integral member of the team that won the Yankees first World Series in 18 years and started a dynasty that would last for the rest of the decade.

Jeter’s answer so impressed Torre that the youngster immediately became a favorite of his old-school manager, a bond that continues unbroken until this day. Joe Girardi was equally impressed with the attitude of his young pitcher. Hughes knows full well that any competition he might have faced this year vanished with Andy Pettitte’s retirement, but he is still acting like he has to fight for his job, which warms his manager’s heart.

Another sign of Hughes’ maturity is his refusal to blame exhaustion for his second-half troubles, as both Girardi and Brian Cashman did. Asked why he struggled in the latter half of 2010, Hughes’ answer was that hitters just caught up with his stuff. It was probably a combination of factors, but the fact that Hughes was willing to step up and take responsibility and pledge to get better is a positive sign for him and the Yankees.

As Cashman noted, the Yankees are in big trouble if Hughes pitches himself out of his rotation spot. But approaching the new season as if there are no guarantees is a healthy attitude to have. Just look at what it did for Jeter, launching an epic career that will eventually take him to his guaranteed spots in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Monument Park. I hope Hughes’ healthy attitude can take him just as far.

No comments:

Post a Comment