I was beginning to worry that Phil Hughes was becoming the new AJ Burnett for some New York Yankees fans looking for someone to boo and blame for the Bronx Bombers’ mediocre start. But Hughes put those concerns to rest with his gem of a start yesterday.
With Andy Pettitte coming back to the Yankees today, it was extremely important for Hughes to remind the fans and quite frankly the organization about why they have so much invested in him as a starter. Hughes was on the verge of being shifted to the bullpen, sentenced to a baseball life as a middle reliever, as Joba Chamberlain has been despite his stunning debut in the American League in 2007. But his starting job now seems safe as Hughes delivered by far his best performance of the baseball season. Yes, it was against the Seattle Mariners, but he has been improving with each start and is headed in the right direction.
Hughes claimed he didn’t have his best stuff, but he spotted the baseball beautifully and took full advantage of an improved defense behind him (no longer having to worry about Eduardo Nunez making errors that blow up innings for him as the young shortstop was sent to the minor leagues to work on his defense). Hughes was so efficient that the Yankees finished off the Mariners in about 2 ½ hours. The main improvement has been in Hughes’ attitude, with his newfound aggressiveness leading to more success, which in turn breeds confidence.
Yankee fans don’t have Burnett to kick around anymore so I was worried they were starting to turn their negative attention on to Hughes, a kid who has shown flashes of promise, but has struggled to sustain it. But it looks like he is in the clear again when it comes to restless Yankee fans. All Hughes has to do is keep pitching well and he will hear his name being chanted instead of being booed.