Here’s a look at Hughes’ other home run allowed:
The final pitch is a front-door cutter Hughes tried to run in on Howie Kendrick but, obviously, left too far over the plate. Kendrick capitalized on it, tacked three runs onto the Angels’ lead, and chased Hughes from the game after just 3.1 innings.
Look, obviously outings like the one Hughes had yesterday aren’t going to endear him to much of anyone around the Universe. Yes, as most observers have said, his stuff did look pretty good for most of the game, but “pretty good” and “most of the game” are somewhat relative terms, and Hughes’ big problem is that his mistakes were very big ones and came back to bite him in a big way. And whether or not he’s gotten his fastball velocity back into the range it needs to be in, he still has neither the velocity nor the movement on the pitch to be making mistakes up and over the plate like that pitch he threw to Ianetta.
The other problem Hughes continues to have involves putting hitters away once he gets ahead in the count. I actually thought this was a bit overstated yesterday, as Hughes was at least better about this than he was last season an in the second half of 2010 (or so it seemed) but he certainly didn’t convert outs quickly once he reached an 0-2 or 1-2 count for the most part. That really sticks out when you remember the way Ivan Nova worked through the Orioles lineup in his last start, getting five swinging third strikes and generally disposing of his opponents post haste once he had the advantage. Given that it’s Hughes who comes with the billing of being a power pitcher while Nova is decidedly not known for strikeouts or his swing and miss stuff, this discrepancy speaks all the more poorly to Hughes’ present arsenal/approach.
You hate to be too hard on a pitcher after two starts, especially one with the history of Hughes, but the simple fact of the matter is that this small sample is going to matter. Andy Pettitte is making his second start with High-A Tampa today, and then figures to move up to face Double-A hitters next week. Michael Pineda is throwing off of a mound now, as he works his way back from a bout with shoulder tendinitis. Both of these pitchers figure to be back in early-to-mid May, and while Freddy Garcia is still likely to be the first man out of the current rotation, the second switch is going to come at the expense of either Hughes or Nova. The Yankees certainly want to give Hughes every chance to succeed in the major league rotation given the potential he still has, as well as the fact that he’s eligible for free agency at the end of next season, but at some point present results matter too. Hughes has now turned in two less than stellar outings to open the season, while Nova was fantastic in his first start in Baltimore. The latter will get another chance tonight and, with another good outing against a lineup that Hughes struggled against the day before, Nova could really distance from Hughes out of the gate.