New York Yankees: Phil Hughes' Latest Start May Have Saved His Rotation Spot

Doug RushSenior Analyst IMay 7, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 6:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium May 6, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Sunday's series finale game against the Kansas City Royals was an important one for Phil Hughes.

Going into the game, Hughes had a 1-4 record with a 7.48 ERA and was on the verge of losing his rotation spot.

With Andy Pettitte on the verge of rejoining the team after an extended spring training, he will take one of the rotation spots on the team.

That leaves either Hughes or David Phelps as one of the two that would be the odd man out of the rotation.

With Hughes' start, I think he pitched well enough to keep his job, for now.

Against the Royals, Hughes pitched 6.2 innings, allowed six hits, three runs, walked one and struck out seven and notched his second win of the season.

What was impressive about Hughes on Sunday was that he was overpowering hitters with his fastball, which was hitting in the 93-95 range.

He also had great location of his pitches, which didn't allow the Royals hitters to tee off on Hughes and knock him around.

Those two things have been Hughes' biggest downfalls in 2012, when his velocity is down and his location isn't there, hitters swing for the fences.

Hughes' outing on Sunday showed that when he mixes great velocity with great location, hitters don't stand a chance against him, because he has no-hit stuff.

Hughes certainly has the strikeout pitch going for him in 2012; striking out 30 in 28.1 innings, which is an excellent ratio.

He has to keep the runs down though, as he's given up 25 runs in the 28.1 innings, which is why his ERA is 6.67 early on this season.

The Yankees see Hughes as a vital part of the rotation and given that the Yankees starting rotation has been shaky at best so far, Hughes needs to give them more outings like we saw on Sunday.

And if Hughes does in fact keep his job, that might leave Phelps as the odd man out in the rotation.

The 26-year old Phelps shouldn't be sent down to Class AAA Scranton/Wilks-Barre if he is bumped out of the rotation, though.

Phelps has pitched well early on this season and should at least get a relief spot because he's given the Yankees some quality innings.

In his first ever major league start, Phelps pitched decent, but didn't get enough run support in the Yankees 4-3 loss to the Royals on Thursday night.

I think Phelps will get more opportunities to start for the Yankees in 2012, especially if Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda don't pitch with more consistency.

But for now, I think with Sunday's performance, Hughes will keep his starting job for at least another couple weeks.

He definitely needs to put together a few more starts like the one on Sunday if he doesn't want to lose his spot to Phelps, though.

If Hughes pitches well, it only benefits the Yankees chances of having success in 2012. If he doesn't, we've all seen the results. The Yankees usually lose.

But for now, I think the Yankees keep Hughes in the rotation.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.