Let’s get this out of the way. Phil Hughes is an average starting pitcher at best who would be best suited in the bullpen. His fastball no longer has the bite it once did, only reaching 94 on the Yankee Stadium gun a few times early on, and he doesn’t mix his pitches well enough to get through major league lineups on a consistent basis.
That was the main takeaway from my scouting Hughes at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. Curtis Granderson obviously stole the show, but the game against the Twins confirmed my belief that Hughes will likely be replaced in the New York rotation in May and will likely help a Yankees bullpen that is already the best relief corps in the major leagues.
His first 10 pitches were fastballs until he mixed in a change-up. His 14th pitch was a slider and he didn’t throw his curveball, which was actually successful, until his 41st offering. None of his pitches are exceptional. It doesn’t seem like he has an out pitch at this point and made a few costly mistakes over the course of his start, which went a lot longer than I thought it would.
Hughes deserves credit for staying on longer than he should have, and for getting the win, after allowing four unearned runs in the first inning, in which he threw 33 pitches. He used a lot more off speed pitches in and second and third frames because his fastball wasn’t cutting it. He settled down in the fourth and fifth innings, when he mixed his pitches well and kept hitters more off balance, which did not happen in the first inning.
Up 7-4 in the sixth, Hughes served up a two-run shot to Ryan Doumit, who really impressed me on Thursday with his bat and his throwing arm from right field (given that his natural position is catcher). Hughes summed up his outing on Thursday night pretty well: ”It was far from a good outing, but there are some positives I can take out of it,” Hughes said.
Hughes can be a serviceable back-end starter if he mixes his pitches and keeps hitters honest in different counts. But he can no longer overwhelm hitters and is best suited for the bullpen, which is soon where he’ll go.