Phil Hughes: New York Yankees Have "All But Settled" on him as Fifth Starter

Bronx Baseball DailySenior Analyst IMarch 24, 2010

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees poses for a photo during Spring Training Media Photo Day at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 25, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Yankees have yet to make an official announcement, but according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, in the next couple of days they will announce that the winner of the fifth spot in the rotation will be Phil Hughes:

There are still meetings this week, still final statements that could be offered, still an injury that can change minds and needs. But this was a competition in the faintest of ways. As I reported in early February, the Yankees brass was going to enter spring privately viewing Hughes as the clear fifth starter frontrunner.

The reality is that no one else could win the job. Hughes could only lose it. And strangely, he sealed the win Monday when, of all things, he lost by surrendering three homers, including a walk-off shot by Philadelphia’s Wilson Valdez.

My Thoughts

While it worries me that the Yankees may have given up on Joba Chamberlain too early, it is hard to be upset when a player of Hughes’ talent is inserted into the rotation. As long as Joba is given another chance to return to the rotation in the event of an injury or even next season, then this can’t be looked at as bad news.

In a way, even if you’re like me and wanted Joba in the rotation, this is a good thing. Joba was stretched out pretty far last season compared to previous years and with that comes injury risk. The Yankees will be minimizing risk by putting  Joba  in the bullpen this season, thus limiting his innings. And if he is in the rotation in the future, he should still be capable of providing 150 innings or more.

Meanwhile, by putting Hughes in the rotation you now avoid the risk of stunting his development. He was simply electric last season coming out of the bullpen and his confidence on the mound was visibly better.

The problem is that he only threw a fastball and curve when coming out of the bullpen. He only occasionally threw his cutter and rarely, if ever, threw his changeup. He’s put a lot of work into the changeup, especially this spring, but another year in the bullpen could have cost him the pitch altogether.

Hughes took big leaps as a major leaguer last season, and this opportunity is putting him in position to take even bigger steps in the future.

The bottom line is that no matter who you were pulling for, Joba, Hughes, or someone else, this Yankee rotation is flat out nasty. One through five, it is probably the strongest the Yanks have had in the past 10 years.

What do you think? Have the Yankees made the right decision here? Or is this a signal that they’ve given up on Joba?

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