Hughes’ rules? Apparently the Yankees will be holding Phil Hughes out of his next spot in the rotation. No, this is not an attempt by the Yanks to handicap themselves, it’s some kind of convulsed plan to help Hughes’ development. “This is a hard guy to sit and miss a spot,” said Joe Girardi yesterday, “just because of how well he’s pitching for us. We can’t be shortsighted. We have to think of this year and we have to think of his future and not hurting this kid. We want to make sure that we have him for a long time.”
Shortsighted, though, is exactly what the Yankees are being.
They don’t seem to remember as far back as last year, when they screwed up Joba Chamberlain’s head and arm with three and four-inning starts that not only didn’t let Joba pitch but drained their bullpen whether Joba pitched well or not.
Hughes is not only the Yankees pitcher of the future — and if you’ve been reading the Voice since 2007, you know we were saying it even then — but he’s also the Yankees’ pitcher of the present. In fact, he’s on the verge of being the best starting pitcher in the American League. He’s currently 10-1 with a 3.17 ERA, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning with a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than 3:1.
Why not just let him pitch? As Hughes very smartly pointed out in Mike Feinsand’s story in the Daily News Monday,
“When you are pitching well, it means you are getting deeper into games.” Why bother counting innings when the pitcher is getting through them without any trouble?
For an intelligent analysis of the argument about how to handle young pitchers and why they shouldn’t be coddled, check out Murray Chass’s “The Ryan Renaissance” and his assessment of how Nolan Ryan — the pitcher who struck out more batters and threw mo no-hitters than any pitcher in history — is handling their pitching staff. As Rangers’ team president, Ryan has taken an unusually active role in the development of their young pitchers and helped turn the dreadful history of Rangers’ pitching around.
The short form: “Baseball has conditioned out starting pitchers not to pitch deep into games,” Ryan said. “They’re trying to protect them, and they’re broadening the use of the bullpen … We want pitchers to go deeper into games and be more effective with their pitches, throw more strikes and last longer.” The Rangers are currently fourth in the AL in Team ERA, just behind the Yankees.
The Yankees’ front office might want to put in a call to Ryan and ask him his advice his advice on Hughes – and for that matter, on Joba. We have a pretty good idea what his answer would be: “Young pitchers learn to pitch by pitching,. Young arms get stronger by throwing.”