Mike from River Ave. Blues took a look at the under-utilization of Phil Hughes in the past month or so. Mike issue is with the fact that he hasn't been called on as of late, but I would like to add that the decision not to pitch him echoes into next season as well.
Hughes has pitched 70 1/3 innings for far this year and has been nothing short of excellent since being transitioned from a starter to a reliever. He's thrown about 35 innings in each role so far, but had an ERA of 5.45 as a starter as opposed to 1.26 out of the bullpen. He has great strikeout rates in both, but whiffs almost 3 1/2 more batters per nine when he's used in relief.
It would seem that the transition to high leverage reliever was just what the doctor ordered, but the downside is that Hughes doesn't figure to collect much more than 100 innings this year (if that), including the postseason. So when next year rolls around, he's going to be in almost the exact same spot innings-wise that Joba Chamberlain was in this year. Roughly 100 IP with a cap of 150-160 as a member of the starting rotation.
This reality makes the fact that Girardi has only used Hughes for 8 innings this month all the more puzzling. It's one of the reasons we were hesitant to jump on board the "Hughes to the bullpen" train to begin with. Were he in Scranton or in the rotation, this probably would be a non-issue.
The Yankees will probably tell you they have a plan for Hughes, but I don't think using him for 8 or 10 innings over an entire month despite a clean bill of health was part of that grand scheme. Granted, the Yankees have been involved in a lot of lopsided games both for and against them, so there weren't a lot of obvious occasions for Hughes to be called upon.
However, as manager Joe Girardi should be cognizant of the amount of innings the Phranchise has(n't) thrown and what that is going to mean if he and Brian Cashman truly want to make him a starting pitcher next season. If this means putting him in for an inning or two when the game is out of hand, then so be it. The kid should be on the hill one way or another.
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