(Long Island, N.Y.) Those middle of the rotation guys have all the luck. The ace and number two men are expected to lead the pitching staff, while the fifth starter is an interchangeable part throughout much of the season. The three and the four? They get to pitch close to .500 ball and still receive accolades.
Philip Hughes may be the Yankees current third starter – and fourth or fifth once Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova return from the disabled list – but that hasn’t kept him from looking sharp this summer, especially when taking the mound at Yankee Stadium.
Following Tuesday night’s seven-inning outing versus Toronto, the right-hander made it six consecutive home wins in his last seven starts and has a sparkling 1.62 ERA as well. Just how important this has been with Pettitte and Nova (and earlier, CC Sabathia) out with injuries is definitely not something lost on Joe Girardi.
“He did a really nice job again,” the manager said in his post game press conference. “He’s pitched well for us this year.”
Perhaps not looking ahead, but wishful thinking, Girardi commented on having a solid set of arms come October. “If you’re going to make it to the playoffs, and you’re going to make any noise in the playoffs, then you have to have that,” he said. “Hughes has been consistent.”
Overall, the six-year veteran has amassed a record of 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA. In 156.2 innings pitched, he has struck out 130 batters while only issuing 38 bases on balls. Those are the types of numbers that will go a long way once the postseason is upon us.
Because teams go to three or four-man rotations, Hughes may find himself pitching out of the bullpen as a long man. If healthy, Sabathia and Pettitte will lead the way with Nova, and Hiroki Kuroda has earned at least one playoff start. The native of Japan has looked strong; going 12-9, 2.98 ERA, and Hughes is capable of filling in that all-important relief role. He is versatile enough to handle that and to make a spot start/long appearance in the event of a rainout or extended rain delay.
When your staff is that deep and the pitcher tied for the team lead in wins can be considered an added luxury once the playoffs start, you know that the general manager has done his homework. Hughes and Sabathia both have 13 wins and Brian Cashman has been able to keep a fresh set of quality arms going out there every four days regardless of setbacks due to injuries.
Hughes’s best month came in June, when he went 4-1, 2.67 (including a complete game), to improve his record to 8-6 at the time. He also held opponents to a .226 batting average that month. Some inconsistency has been present since then for Hughes, but he has the experience to get the job done in crunch time.
And it doesn’t even matter that Hughes is a mid-rotation guy.