What do you do with a problem like Phil?

From a scouting standpoint, the same problems that have plagued Hughes since the second half of 2010 are still there, namely his inability to consistently put hitters away when he gets ahead of them. His strikeout rate suggests he’s getting better at this, but consistently making good pitches remains a problem. That Andrus at bat last night is a good example; he got Andrus out on his front foot with the curveball but, rather than burying the pitch in the dirt where Andrus would have flailed helplessly at it, Hughes left it a little bit up and Andrus was able to adjust enough to get the bat on it, making A-Rod charge to field it and giving an alert Mitch Moreland plenty of time to score. It looks like a minor thing, but it’s the difference between a run and a strikeout that gives you a chance to get the next batter and get out of the jam without any damage. Those things add up over the course of a season.

The real problem with Hughes right now, however, is the question of what to do with him. His profile right now is that of a reliever, but with the way the entire bullpen has performed in the season’s first month, the Yankees simply have no need whatsoever for another reliever. What’s more, you could plausibly argue that Hughes doesn’t deserve to displace anyone from the unit right now, unless you moved David Phelps into the rotation and gave Hughes the long man role (and it should be noted that Phelps’ line from last night is every bit as ugly as Hughes’). So if he’s not a starter, and there’s no place to put him in the bullpen, what, exaclty, do you do with him?

Here’s my suggestion: Double-A. Send Hughes down to Double-A with instructions to focus on rebuilding his secondary stuff, particularly his curveball, and forget about him until September. That sounds drastic, but I don’t know what else to do with him at this point. He’s flashing enough ability that I’d really hate to see the team give up on him entirely at this point, but he’s just simply not good enough right now to be a major league starter, and the Yankees probably can’t afford to continue to incur the cost of trying to let him figure it out at the big league level. If he can go to the minors and refine a power curveball that he can actually throw with some bite, there may actually be some hope left for him, but, otherwise, he simply doesn’t have the stuff to be more than cannon fodder at the moment.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

22 thoughts on “What do you do with a problem like Phil?

  1. Brien, I'm trying to count to five. CC, Kuroda, Nova, Pettitte, and … ? If not Phelps, then who?

  2. What's the situation with Oswalt being a free agent? Is it conceivable that the Yankees could try to get him?

  3. How about we turn back the hands of time and pulled the trigger to Trade NO THRILL PHILL for Johan Satana and before anyone says No we would'n have CC, I say, No we would had to sign AJ BUST Burnett… But since we cant do this, then the time has come to say good bye and trade him to Detroit for Rick Porcello.. Both need a change of address and since Rick is a NJ boy, maybe some of Moms home cook Italian meals will help get over his issues.. after 5 years didnt the Cashman know that Phil was not apower pitcher or a ground ball pitcher but a fly ball pitcher in a hitters park?.. Even Stevie Wonder could see this.. Hughes belongs anywhere but in NY.. He can not handle the pressure and for that fact many before him couldnt./ West coast pitchers are not built for this enviroment.. Look at IPK..

  4. Hughes is a relief pitcher, plain and simple. Reminds me of the situation with Ramiro Mendoza back in the dynasty days. There was a guy who was great one time through the order. After that, the wheels tended to fly off. Not always, but often enough for the Yanks to realize that he was not a starter. Hughes' demeanor, his stuff and the results when he comes out of the bullpen are 100% different (read better).

  5. And while there's no room in the bullpen at this moment, what do you think of the Yankees seeing if they can send Soriano to the Giants. Probably would have to eat some of the salary, but they might be able to get a decent player in return and open up a spot for Hughes. I've heard that float around, but I haven't seen a whole of discussion on the matter.