When Michael Pineda Arrives for the New York Yankees Next Month, Phil Hughes Should Go

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In Addition to Derek Jeter, New York Yankees' Second-Half Makeover Should Include Michael Pineda

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Michael Pineda

COMMENTARY | Before deciding on Michael Pineda's future with the New York Yankees, the team plans on seeing how the big right-hander does in about six starts. However, it's pretty clear that when Pineda is ready to join the Yankees, the club needs to part ways with Phil Hughes (3-5, 4.89 ERA in 13 starts).

Pineda performed well on Friday in Tampa, where he threw 74 pitches - 57 for strikes - in a simulated game. (He was initially scheduled to throw for the Class AA Trenton Thunder, but storms along the East Coast convinced team officials to keep Pineda in Florida.) Last week, in his first rehab start since his shoulder surgery, Pineda threw 42 of 68 pitches for strikes and his fastball was clocked as high as 94 miles per hour. Pitching for the Class A Tampa Yankees, Pineda gave up two hits in 4 1/3 innings while walking one and striking out four.

"By the fourth or fifth rehab start we'll be able to compare him to what we have up here, and go from there,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told a group of reporters earlier this week.

If Pineda can maintain his velocity and control, the Yankees should move the 24-year-old into the starting rotation and say goodbye to Hughes, who has struggled at times this season and is set to be a free agent at the end of the year.

As I wrote earlier this month, Hughes is a fly-ball pitcher who plays half his games in a homer-friendly ballpark. Since the Yankees moved to the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, he's given up 61 long balls in 307 innings at home -- about one every 5 innings. Over the same period, he's given up only 28 home runs in 280 innings outside the Bronx.

If Cashman can't trade Hughes, he and manager Joe Giradi should move Hughes to the bullpen, where the righty put up All-Star numbers in 2009. In 44 relief appearances that season, Hughes had a 1.40 ERA and struck out 65 in 51 1/3 innings.

If anything, Pineda's arrival in the Bronx would excite the Yankees' fan base.

Fans have been waiting for Pineda's arrival since he was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in January 2012 for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, both of whom have struggled this season. Montero, who recently tore the meniscus in his left knee after being demoted to the Mariners' Class AAA affiliate, has also been linked to the South Florida anti-aging clinic suspected of provided performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. Meanwhile, Pineda missed all of last season after undergoing surgery in April to repair an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder.

Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.

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