Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It Hurts So Good

I feel the need to write something to get over the numbness I feel from last night's Yankees game, probably the worst I'll ever feel following a 10-1 win by my favorite team. Phil Hughes was absolutely unbelievable: I don't think he threw a pitch down the middle of the plate and only three batted balls left the infield. There's been some debate as to how fast Hughes is throwing- early scouting reports had him in the mid-to-high 90s, while last night's FSN radar gun had him at 89-92, though the announcers admitted that the stadium gun had him at 93-95. At any rate, it didn't seem to matter, because Hughes was in the hitters' heads with his Philthy curveball and changeup.

My favorite strikeout was Wilkerson's to start the bottom of the third. (Video can be found here, but doesn't work on this computer, so I don't know if this strikeout is shown.) The first two innings, Hughes threw the curveball as if it were his primary pitch, at one point walking Blalock on four straight, and then getting Kinsler to bounce into a double play with another curve on the next pitch. That set up the third inning where Hughes started Wilkerson off with a fastball for a called strike, then another for a swinging strike. Wilkerson, and every batter ever has to be thinking: "Ok, here comes the curve. It's 0-2, he's got a ridiculous hook, here it comes. He's winding up... stay back, stay back.... I'm gonna crush this! Here comes the curve.... oh. Wait. That was a fastball down the middle. Crap." Wilkerson just wheeled, hung his head, and walked slowly to the dugout, a broken man. Hughes then got Wilkerson with a curveball, swinging, two innnings later.

With things like that happening, I don't need a radar gun to know that Hughes is ready to be a good pitcher in the majors, on his way to being great. I feel better now, being able to write about the amazing pitching seen last night. Yes, he hurt himself, over extending, trying to get one of the Rangers' sluggers (Teixiera) with an 0-2 curveball. Yes, that sort of thing probably wouldn't have happened in Scranton. But rather than burning the Yankees front office for calling Hughes up too early, I think it's entirely the opposite. Hughes was ready... last year. I agree with Mike Plugh: Injuries happen to pitchers who are babied and to pitchers who are rushed. Mark Prior, Felix Hernandez, and Fransisco Liriano were all babied on their way to the majors, and they all sit on the disabled list. Perhaps if Hughes were given a normal schedule and was able to build up leg strength during game situations, rather than an absurd pitch count, his hamstring could have survived that curveball to Teixiera.

Regardless, this is not a giant career threatening injury; and in the realm of injuries that happen to young pitchers, a hamstring pull on the landing (left) leg is relatively tame. It's going to take some time to heal, but it's not going to affect his development, other than he won't get to pitch games the next 4-6 weeks. Hopefully someone will show him how to throw that 12-6 curveball without damaging his hamstring, and we'll get to see Phil of the Future in pinstripes for another decade or more. Heck, in 4-6 weeks, Hughes' emergence may be the only reason to watch Yankees games anymore...

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