The Phil Hughes Era officially begins tonight at Yankee Stadium. It’s an occasion Bomber fans have been anticipating for some time, and though it’s come a bit earlier than expected, its arrival is exciting nonetheless. Phil Hughes is the brightest prospect the Yanks have had in more than a decade, and he comes at a time when more and more attention is paid to rising stars. (Derek Jeter, for instance, arrived to far less fanfare.)
There’s good cause for the excitement: Hughes, in his short minor league career, has dominated at every level, and he has the "Big League body" that scouts adore. Last summer, between high A and AA, Hughes threw 116 innings, k’ed 138, bb’ed 32, had an era of 2.16, and allowed a meager ,179 batting average against. He was roughed up in spring training this year, and had a tough second outing in AAA, but in his third and final appearance in the minors he pitched 6 innings, allowed 2 hits, and k’ed 10 with 0 walks.
Those numbers have left many feeling that there is nothing left for Hughes to prove in the minors, that every pitch in Wilkes-Barre was a pitch that just as well could have been thrown in the Show. But the Yanks had promised to bring Hughes along slowly, protecting his body and his mind from the storm of NY. Well, that plan went out the window, for better or worse.
Much has been written as to whether the promotion of Hughes is a "Panic Move." That makes for interesting bar talk, but it’s not particularly relevant. What matters: Is bringing him up the right move, both for the team and for Hughes. That remains to be determined—certainly there’s no consensus right now. When the Yanks announced the move, we put up a snap poll and the results initially stood at 68 percent feeling the move was too fast, with 24 percent suggesting it was not. Those numbers have closed a bit in the interim, as more votes have come in, and, perhaps, some have changed their minds (that’s an option). We’ll leave the poll open for some time (feel free to update your vote or vote for the first time as the season progresses)—it should be interesting to see if and how this thinking evolves.
Meanwhile, we have Hughes to watch tonight. Look out for a fastball that clocks in the low 90s, a devastating 12-6 hook, and the occassional slider or change. The season record for wins in a season by a 20 year old is 24, a mark achieved by Bob Feller in 1939. That doesn’t seem like it’s in much danger. Frankly, it’s far too much to ask for. At this point, the Yanks just need a quality start, and they bring to the mound a man they hope will be supplying those for the next decade or more. Whatever happens, it will be interesting, and we’ll be commenting on all the action right here. Go Yanks!