The day after Javier Vazquez turned back into a pumpkin probably isn’t the best time to have a discussion of the “Hughes Rules”, but according to Andrew Marchand, that’s exactly what the Yankees have been doing.
In his report at ESPNNewYork, Marchand stated that the Yankees are planning to lighten Phil Hughes workload over the next six weeks in an attempt to limit the young right hander’s innings to about 175 for the season. Although not explicitly defined by the Yankees, the Hughes plan will seek to be less intrusive than the Joba Rules, which took on a life of their own and seemed to overwhelm the pitcher with their uncertainty. The biggest break with the Joba rules, however, seems to be the Yankees will now instead focus more on the number of pitches thrown by Hughes.
Some innings are more stressful than others,” Eiland said. “You can throw five innings and 100 pitches and it can really take its toll on you because you are really laboring through that or you can throw seven innings and 100 pitches. It is less pitches in an inning and you are not laboring as much. The more you have to labor, the more stress it puts on your arm.” – Dave Eiland, speaking to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com
Because Hughes has pitched so well, there will undoubtedly be a temptation to not skip many of his starts, especially if Javier Vazquez’ outing against the Twins represents a setback instead of a blip. Also, there will likely be some backlash against any limitations on Hughes after the Joba Rules turned out to be such a fiasco. Still, the Yankees would be wise to exercise restraint with their talented young starter, even it means compromising their chances in 2010.
Looking to the future is not something the Yankees usually make a priority, but under Brian Cashman, the team has made a point of protecting young pitchers. Although they may not have always taken the best approach, the intentions are noble. Having said that, if Hughes is forced to curtail his 2010 campaign, and the Yankees fail to make the playoffs as a result, there will be some blame to go around.
When Hughes was demoted to the bullpen, Joe Girardi used him almost exclusively as a short reliever. Although very effective in that role, Hughes only wound up compiling 86 major league innings (109 2/3 including the minors and playoffs). Coming off a 2008 campaign with 79 2/3 combined innings, the Yankees had more room to stretch Hughes out, but squandered that opportunity. Had they had more foresight last season, the limits on Hughes this season would likely be less stringent. It’s too late to make up for lost time, so, if Hughes is forced to take a breather, and the Yankees suffer as a result, the team may wind up regretting how it handled both Hughes and Joba in 2009.
Phil Hughes’ Career Workload (Innings)
|2005||19||0||0||86 2/3||86 2/3|
|2007||21||72 2/3||5 2/3||37 2/3||116|
|2008||22||34||0||35 2/3||69 2/3|
|2009||23||86||4 2/3||19 1/3||110|
|2010||24||49 2/3||0||0||49 2/3|
Phil Hughes’ Major League Pitch Count (regular season only)