Phil of the future
Yankees make tough call on Hughes; Rocket next?
Posted: Tuesday April 24, 2007 11:58AM; Updated: Tuesday April 24, 2007 2:51PM
The most important man in the American League East has made himself known. It took just 18 games, 18 ridiculously messy New York Yankees games in which:
Andy Pettitte, a guy with a checkered history when it comes to his left elbow, pitched twice out of the bullpen.
Manager Joe Torre broke his spring vow to keep Mariano Rivera out of the eighth inning.
And Chase Wright turned himself into an infamous trivia answer, if not an outright public hazard because of the carpet bombing of home run balls he engendered on Lansdowne Street.
It took 18 games for Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who tried to sell everyone on a rotation that included Carl (the Tin Man) Pavano and Kei Igawa (Japanese for "Jaret Wright"), to cry uncle.
Cashman is bringing up Phil Hughes, 20, the best pitching prospect in baseball, simply because it made no sense for the top pitcher in the organization to be getting outs for Scranton when nobody on the big league club could do so with even half his efficiency. Hughes, on Thursday, will become the team's ninth starting pitcher in the first 21 games of the season.
Cashman didn't want Hughes this early, perhaps not even at all this year -- not when the organization babied him last year while holding him to 146 total innings. Now he says Hughes may be around only for one start. Right. He is the best arm the Yankees have -- the one Torre wanted last August -- and they'd rather keep giving the ball to Igawa or counting on Pavano? Sure.
There's no way Hughes should be allowed to pitch 175 innings this year, but good luck getting him out of the rotation now. You try telling Torre that Hughes shouldn't pitch in September because his arm isn't ready for a sixth month and 30 more innings than he's ever thrown in a season.
Cashman simply couldn't afford to wait any longer. No matter the bill of goods he was selling this spring about the health of Pavano or the "craftiness" of Igawa -- a professional nibbler who has good reason, with his mediocre stuff in the AL, to be afraid to throw the ball over the plate -- the Yankees' fate this season always has rested with Cashman on two decisions:
1.) When does he bring Hughes to the big leagues?
2.) How badly does he bend team rules and his own "fiscal responsibility" kick (the same philosophy that wrongly cost him any shot at Daisuke Matsuzaka) to empty the piggy bank for Roger Clemens?
It's only been three weeks, but a pecking order has been established in the AL East. "The Red Sox are the best team in the division," one veteran GM says. That is so because the Red Sox's starting pitching has been as good as advertised, and the Yankees' rotation as poor as they could have feared. The Blue Jays? They haven't been the offensive force they expected, and need Frank Thomas to awaken and Troy Glaus to return next week before that status can be properly judged. The Orioles? With their improved bullpen and a big year from Erik Bedard, they might continue to surprise.
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