Can Phil Hughes Be the 2007 Joba Chamberlain?

Lou SiracusaContributor IFebruary 27, 2009

The New York Yankees have been, and still are, very high on the potential of Phil Hughes.  However, no matter what they do with him, it seems to backfire.  When their starting rotation was in shambles early in 2007, they called up the 20-year-old to help the team. It has been all up and down since then.

In just his second career start against the Texas Rangers, he threw six-and-one-third innings of no-hit baseball.  Unfortunately, he pulled his hamstring in that game, and was sidelined until August.  He made a few late-season starts down the stretch and looked good. 

He made his postseason debut that season as well, throwing three-and-two-thirds scoreless innings against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.  The ceiling seemed very high on Hughes at that point, and the Yankees were thrilled. 

Then, the nightmare of 2008 started for Hughes and the Bronx Bombers.  In an injury-plagued season, Hughes went 0-4 in eight starts. He threw only 34 innings, while posting a 6.62 ERA—not exactly what the Yankees were looking for.

Barring any injuries, the Yankees' 2009 rotation is set with C.C. Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain.  Phil Hughes seems destined to start the season at AAA Scranton Wilkes/Barre. 

My suggestion to Joe Girardi would be to use Hughes in the seventh and eighth inning.  He has five pitches in his arsenal, and can get it up to 95 mph on occasion with his four-seam fastball. 

Putting him in the bullpen could help him regain some of the confidence he showed back in 2007.  Joba has seemed to make the transition from reliever to starter without any major issues.  So why can't Hughes do the same?

If this could be done, then Hughes could be the fifth starter in 2010.  Chamberlain and Hughes are obviously two different people with different make-ups.  But they both have great stuff, and could be dominant pitchers in the league for years to come. 

Remember, Hughes is only 22 years old right now.  He is still young, and this could be a great way to get him some needed experience, while building his confidence as well.