The spot in the rotation is still up for grabs, and Hughes is in competition to earn that spot.
Pitching in a game on Friday against the Nationals, he entered the game in the fifth inning, giving up three hits and had three strikeouts in four innings in a 4-3 win.
The competition for the spot in the rotation may be fierce at times, but Hughes has appeared to be strong and steady this spring training. He appears to have rehabilitated and recovered well from previous injuries, and his pitching mechanics appear to be solid.
Hughes may have struggled in 2011, especially in the first half of the season, but he has demonstrated confidence and control on the mound in this year's spring training.
His pitch location is more on target, and his velocity has increased. Even more importantly, his velocity remains consistent. He has regained his focus, which will continue to rebuild his confidence on the mound.
Showing improvement in the second half of the 2011 season, he had a 3.72 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a win-loss record of 4-2.
In 2010, his win-loss record was 18-8, he had a WHIP of 1.248, 146 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.19 in 176.1 innings pitched.
Whether or not Hughes will have a stellar or monster season remains to be seen. That may be unlikely, but the 2012 season presents a huge opportunity for him to have a bounce-back season and prove that he has the ability to adapt and overcome what was a difficult 2011.
If given the chance, Hughes will demonstrate that he has earned a spot on the starting rotation and will become quite valuable.
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