Do you get anxious every time Phil Hughes pitches? Do you suffer depression when he blows the ball by one batter after another and then spoils it all by serving up a home run? Do you get delusional by thinking he will someday fulfill his potential? If you do, you have the Phil Hughes blues.
So what is the cure for this condition? Apart from Hughes leaving the New York Yankees and finding success with a team that has enough outfield space to keep his gopher balls in the park, what is the solution?
Perhaps manager Joe Girardi should move him back to the bullpen. In 2009, Hughes was 8-3 there with an earned run average of 3.03, the lowest of his career. He struck out 96 batters in 86 innings, the best ratio of his career. He set the table very well for Mariano Rivera.
But the log- jam in the Yankees bullpen is like the line at the ticket window. There just isn’t any room, even if Hughes could adjust quickly to the move back. Besides, as a reliever, he would have an opportunity to blow a game every day, not just every four or five days.
So here is the cure. Don’t pitch him in Yankee Stadium. Better yet, don’t pitch him in any park that has measurements that favor the home run. Hughes has already given up 12 home runs in 58.2 innings in 2013. Last season, he allowed 35 in 191.1 innings.
And forget about comparing him to pitchers who find a way to win despite allowing homers. No disrespect intended, but Hughes is not CC Sabathia. He needs to fix this to win, and he knows it.
With Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, David Phelps and the eventual return of Michael Pineda, the Yankees could afford to hold Hughes out in stadiums that favor home runs. If Pineda doesn’t make it back, Vidal Nuno could get the start. To keep him in rhythm, let Hughes pitch a simulated game in the bullpen during his missed starts. Just don’t let him take the mound.
There you have it, the cure for the Phil Hughes blues.