With Andy Pettitte breathing down his neck, Phil Hughes had his best start of the baseball season.
Building on a promising outing five days ago, Hughes took command of the situation and the mound. He wasn’t unhittable and got careless (his word, not mine) with a pitch, giving up a home run to his final batter of the day. But he looked good on the mound, mixing in that elusive change-up to strike batters out left and right. His fastball was strong, hitting 95mph at times, and Hughes trusted it, which allowed him to go 6 2/3rd innings in his longest and by far his best start of the year.
With Pettitte coming back to the Bronx soon, perhaps as early as this weekend, Hughes needed to step up to save his job and he did. Of course, that only buys Hughes some time to prove that he deserves to stay in the rotation. A couple of bad outings by Hughes and David Phelps, likely to get demoted to the bullpen or the minors with Pettitte’s return, will quickly get a second look.
The New York Yankees and particularly Brian Cashman have a lot invested in Hughes. They have to prove that they can develop a strong starter in their minor league system, something they haven’t really done since Pettitte. (Yes, they have Ivan Nova, but the Yankees didn’t know what they had in that kid, letting him go in the Rule 5 draft before he was eventually returned to the team). So they will give Hughes as many chances as possible to prove that he belongs in the rotation. But those chances will run out eventually so Hughes needs to keep doing what he did yesterday to stick.
I, for one, would like to see him do it. I still remember the kid that won 17 games as a starter in 2010 and provided the hope that for just once, the Yankees actually got it right.