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Phil Hughes on Hot Seat for New York Yankees

Former All-Star Off to a Horrific Start in 2013

Yahoo Contributor Network
Phil Hughes on Hot Seat for New York Yankees
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New York Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes is off to a horrific start in 2013.

COMMENTARY | New York Yankees fans have been down this road with Phil Hughes before.

The right-hander who was named an All-Star in 2010, during a season in which he went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA and 1.248 WHIP in 176. 1/3 innings, came back in 2011 and struggled mightily.

Hughes posted an ERA of 5.79 and a 1.487 WHIP in 74 2/3 innings before he was shut down for what was termed "arm fatigue" (per the Newark Star-Ledger). That eventually cost him half the season, and he was never really effective that season.

In 2012, Hughes bounced back, sort of. He went 16-13 in 32 starts, posting a 4.23 ERA and 1.265 WHIP in a career-high 191 1/3 innings. But the 35 home runs he surrendered were a career high and were the second-most surrendered in the American League behind the 39 coughed up by Ervin Santana of the Los Angeles Angels.

Hughes missed much of spring training with a bulging disc in his back (per the New York Daily News). That came after he was lifted from his Game 3 start in the American League Championship Series last October with back problems (per CBSSports.com).

This season? In two starts, it's probably good he doesn't pitch in Cleveland. He'd be known as the Plain Dealer.

He has lasted just seven innings in those two starts, both losses, allowing 17 hits and three home runs. His ERA is an unsightly 10.29 and his WHIP a ghastly 2.714.

Let's put it this way: If you're surrendering 21.9 hits per nine innings, it means two things. One, the sample size is probably very small and two, you're still not fooling anyone who happens to be carrying a polished wooden stick in his hands.

While Ivan Nova was shaky on Tuesday, April 16 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Yankee Stadium, he pitched well enough when he had to, earning his first victory of the season in five innings of work.

With David Phelps pitching well out of the bullpen and having starting experience, Hughes might be a candidate to return to the bullpen, where he last worked regularly as a rookie during the 2009 World Series championship season.

Phelps has allowed three runs and eight hits in eight innings of relief over three appearances so far this April with a 3.38 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Reminiscent of Mel Stottlemyre? Not exactly, but it's light years better than Hughes has managed thus far.

Hughes' next scheduled start is Thursday, April 18, in the finale of the three-game set with the Diamondbacks. Without some rapid improvement in his results, Hughes might find his seat in the rotation getting warmer and warmer.

Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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