Is It Time for the New York Yankees to Give Up Hope on Phil Hughes?

Joe AcampadoCorrespondent IJune 6, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 28:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the second inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 28, 2012 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The sun may be setting on Phil Hughes' career as a New York Yankee. Ever since he was called up to the majors in 2007, Phil Hughes has been consistently inconsistent.  

Over the five plus seasons he's been in the majors, Hughes' ERA has been as low as 3.03 and as high as 6.62.  Some are saying it's time to give up on Hughes, but Sunday's game might have changed their minds.

Sunday's start showed the New York Yankees that he has it in him to be a top of the rotation starter.  It was Hughes' first ever complete game in the majors.  He struck out eight, gave up only four hits, one homer to the mighty Prince Fielder which doubles as the only run for the game, and only allowed Fielder and Miguel Cabrera to get past first.

That was by far Hughes' greatest outing.  He pitched a complete game four-hitter against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers, a team very different from, say the Kansas City Royals.  With that game, Hughes was able to hold off the question of whether to drop him for at least another game.

He was supposed to be the next ace for the Yankees.  His ability drew comparisons to Roger Clemens in his time.  Sports Illustrated even dubbed Hughes the "Pocket Rocket" after Clemen's nickname of the Rocket.

It's been five years and the Yankees, as well as their fans, are still waiting for the Phil Hughes that they heard about, not the one they see every fifth day.  There was promise in Spring Training of Hughes being able to finally tap into his potential, but the regular season quickly erased that.

Hughes had an ERA of 7.88 in April with a 1-3 record.  He only pitched a total of 16 innings in four games.  April was rough on Hughes and many people were ready to quit on him.

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 03: Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 3, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images


May comes and goes with Hughes' ERA for the month being 4.66 with a 3-2 record and pitching 36.2 innings in six games.  His numbers for May aren't great, but it shows he's getting better.

That brings us back to Sunday's game, the complete game where Hughes showed the kind of stuff people were expecting from him all along.  He was attacking hitters with his fastball which had more life and speed than usual.  The 123rd and final pitch of the game was clocked in at 93.4 mph.

Hughes was striking out hitters in the Detroit Tigers' lineup which isn't exactly an easy feat considering they have Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.  He even struck out Cabrera twice.  And let's not forget that he outpitched Justin Verlander, at home.

It's starts like these that make the decision to give up on Phil Hughes even harder.

If he's consistently bad, then you drop him.  If he's consistently good, you keep him.  Hughes, however, has been neither.  But at least he's making a strong case for the Yankees to keep him.

Hughes is lowering his ERA with each start.  He's strikes out more than he walks with 57 K's to his 16 BB.  Sure he's given up a homer in each of his 11 starts of the season, and I still have some questions about his command, especially with his secondary pitches, but he's still better some of the Yankees' other options.

Ivan Nova's been struggling lately, Hiroki Kuroda has is only starting to shake off that inconsistency tag, and the kids in the minors aren't quite ready for the big leagues.  Only CC Sabathia and, to a lesser extent, Andy Pettite, have been consistent on the team.

The question of whether or not to give up hope on Phil Hughes is going to linger throughout the season unless he pitches a perfect game his next start and a complete game shutout after that.

Since he was able to give a strong outing when it was needed from him, I say he's escaped that question for at least another game.  It's still a little early in the season to give up hope on him especially since he's improved since April.

For now, the Yankees should keep him in the rotation and see if he can build off of Sunday's game.