Phil Hughes is fighting to reclaim his job in the New York Yankees starting rotation and he took an important first step yesterday.
The line from his first outing of the spring wasn’t that impressive, but those numbers hardly matter to Joe Girardi and the Yankees. What matters most is the right-hander’s velocity. From that perspective, his outing was a success as Hughes reached as high as 93mph on the radar gun, a number he didn’t reach all last spring in a foreshadowing of his troubles.
But I don’t like the fact that Girardi is openly criticizing Hughes for being overweight last year. Going back to the George Steinbrenner days, I’ve hated the Yankees approach of publicly humiliating their players into submission. I always feel like the Yankees win the battle, but lose the war as the embarrassment breeds long-term resentment by the players that comes back to bite the team in the end. Derek Jeter’s refusal to publicly condemn Jorge Posada when he pulled himself out of a game last year, much to the Yankees’ chagrin, comes to mind. Hughes probably isn’t happy with the public rebuke (he even mentioned that none of the Yankees hierarchy said anything to him last year), but perhaps he can use the comments as motivation.
But overall, I think the Yankees do want Hughes to pitch well and reclaim his starting job. Hughes is still young and has a lot more upside potential than Garcia, who has been a solid starter for the Yankees (and in all honesty a bit of a savior last year), but is a decade older than Hughes and probably does not have very many years left in his arm. In contrast, if Hughes can get himself back on track, the Yankees can once again breathe a sigh of relief that they will have a young, homegrown starter in their midst for many years to come.