BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 2- There may be no hesitation about it. Phil Hughes may have seen his last days as a starter in the pitching rotation of the New York Yankees, though manager Joe Girardi late Monday afternoon would not commit to making that decision. The stretch run, for a wild card spot and another good outing out of the bullpen from David Huff could spell the end for Hughes.
The logical move is to insert Huff, the left hander to assume a role down the stretch. After a long rain delay in the Yankees 9-1 win over the White Sox, Huff allowed 1-run in 5.21 innings, on five hits, striking out three and walking none.
It was the longest relief outing of his career, and ironic that he took over for starter Phil Hughes who pitched to four batters before the rain stopped play in the top of the second inning.
“I haven’t made any changes, I just walked in here,” said Girardi in his post game meeting with the media, moments after the Yankees took the first of three games from Chicago in the Bronx.
The manager seems impatient answering the same questions during this now, and important stretch run that sees his team three games away from an AL wild card post season spot. A few weeks ago, when the Yankees hopes for post season baseball appeared to be minimal, Girardi had to constantly avoid the same questions about when Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter would be returning to his lineup.
But, the reality is, good pitching from the starting rotation is essential for baseball to be played in the Bronx next month. And for the Yankees to get there, Huff, claimed off waivers from Cleveland on May 25th, deserves the opportunity to help them get there.
He has been reliable when coming out of the pen, and Monday showed he may be capable. With the inconsistency of Hughes, who could be in his last days as a Yankee, Huff becomes the guy Girardi has on his mind down the stretch.
“I haven’t made any decisions on changing the rotation,” said Girardi.
However, if Huff was told to prepare for a start, he would be ready in the next few days. Hughes would be slated to probably pitch again today (Wednesday) against the White Sox. If so, that would move CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Andy Pettitte, back a day and enables, the struggling Hiroki Kuroda to keep his regular turn Sunday afternoon against the first place Red Sox.
Kuroda is still scheduled to start Wednesday night, though that could change and Hughes said he would be available and ready to go if Girardi wanted to bring him back.
Huff, in the meantime is going with the flow. He has become what a baseball team during the course of a long season says is, the pleasant and unexpected surprise. He tossed 62 pitches Monday, his fewest ever in a game where he has pitched at least 5.2 innings.
“If I’m in the bullpen I’m pretty relaxed,” he said. “And as a starter it’s the same.”