New York Yankees starter Phil Hughes will be a free agent come season's end, and he hasn't exactly ruled out the notion of signing with a team that's interested in him as a relief pitcher, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
Hughes has filled both roles for the Yankees in his seven-year career with the team, though he has started 97 games over the past four seasons. His performance out of the bullpen in 2009 was instrumental in the team's World Series win, as he pitched to an outstanding 1.40 ERA over 51.1 innings out of the pen.
A fly ball pitcher, Hughes isn't really a great fit for Yankee Stadium. That has become especially evident this season, as the loss in Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim drops his record to 4-12. His ERA is a bloated 4.97.
Perhaps moving away from Yankee Stadium would be the most beneficial to the young right-hander's career. He's allowed 17 home runs at home this season, with the most recent coming off the bat of the not-so-powerful Chris Nelson of the Angels.
Hughes did win 18 games as a starter in 2010, but it's obvious that teams may be more inclined to take him on in a role out of the bullpen. The Colorado Rockies were interested in acquiring him at the deadline to do just that, but a deal between the two clubs never came to fruition.
Once a highly-touted pitching prospect in the Yankees' system, Hughes has never really panned out as a consistent starter. He often shows stretches of dominance but follows them up with sub-par starts that result in almost embarrassing showings. A permanent role in the bullpen could be exactly what Hughes needs to establish some consistency.
When asked by Martino if he would be close-minded to a bullpen role, Hughes said: "No. I mean, I feel like pitching at this level is a blessing in any way. So if teams value me as a starter, that’s great. If not, and that’s their opinion, we’ll see what happens. We will see how it shakes out."
It's obvious that he doesn't seem overly enthused about a demotion of sorts to the bullpen, but the fact that he isn't shutting any doors before he even reaches free agency could be a good sign for him.
Hey, maybe if he really is willing to pitch out of the bullpen the Yankees could attempt to sign him to a one-year deal to see if he can re-harness his 2009 dominance. It's highly doubtful that he'll return to the team as a starter, so this could represent his best shot at staying with the club.
For now, Hughes will focus on pitching the Yankees into the postseason. He may have earned the loss in Thursday's game, but he pitched a quality game and was the hard-luck loser due to a lack of offense while he was on the mound. He'll have to be on his game if he wants to pitch in the postseason, and especially if he wants to be a starter again in the future.
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