Just for those who freak if/when Homer has a bad game (like last week). From the NY Post:
TAMPA - Maybe Phil Hughes never had a chance in this camp. Maybe it really was preordained by Yankees GM Brian Cashman that the touted right-hander was ticketed to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre regardless of what transpired this spring training. Maybe he could have thrown up one zero after another and it would not have mattered a bit.
But Hughes sure has made it easier for the Yankees to have him begin the season in Lackawana County rather than the Bronx. He did not make a case this spring to rise to the big team. Perhaps the strongest case he made is that we need to stop comparing 20-year-olds to Roger Clemens.
Because Hughes has looked far more rookie than Rocket this camp. In fact, Clemens appeared an even more attractive 2007 rotation possibility for the Yankees simply sitting in the Legends Field stands a few days ago than Hughes did on the mound yesterday in a 4-3 loss to the Indians.
The Yankees had hoped to stretch Hughes out over three innings. But it took Hughes three innings of pitches to record four outs against the Indians. He faced 11 batters, gave up four hits, walked three, struck out none and had his ERA climb to 7.71.
This was his third and possibly final appearance in this camp. The Yanks are expected to announce cuts tomorrow and Hughes likely will head across the street to the minor league complex to assure he can build adequate innings to be ready for the season - the Triple-A season.
"It is a little frustrating not to go out and pitch the way I can," Hughes said. "But they had their mind made up from the beginning [about starting the righty at Triple-A]."
They probably did. But there was no protest in Hughes' performance. And the performance here does matter to a degree for unproven players. Jeff Karstens, for example, has followed up his positive major-league cameo from late last season with an impressive spring. His fastball has scooted consistently into the low-90s and he has spotted it well while demonstrating the ability to deploy his changeup and slider when behind in the count.
Karstens has some members of the Yankees front office now wondering if he, not Kei Igawa or Carl Pavano, deserves to be in the rotation; he has Joe Torre wondering if Karstens should be kept as the staff long man; and - at least - he has made himself the likely first option at Triple-A should a rotation injury strike.
That designation was supposed to belong to Hughes. But, if anything, Hughes has shown he still has a distance to go even after overwhelming Double-A last season. He must go to Triple-A, ignore the results and refine his changeup. His fastball is good, his curve has the chance to be elite, but he needs a better third pitch, as was obvious yesterday when he fell behind in the count and did not have an off-speed weapon to keep major-league hitters off of his 92-94 mph heat.
"It was like batting practice because they could sit on the fastball," Hughes said.
Again, Hughes does not turn 21 until June. The prospect he is most closely aligned with, Cincinnati's Homer Bailey, has been beaten up even worse this spring (26.97 ERA). The only pitcher who ranked higher on Baseball America's Prospect list, Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, yielded homers to two non-roster players yesterday in a rough outing against the Orioles.
In other words, all pitchers - even the most heralded - struggle. The struggles will not deter the Yankees' belief that Hughes is still their top pitching prospect, still one of the best in the game, still the holder of a promising future.
It is just that the promise might not be as close to major league fruition as was believed in so many quarters. Maybe Phil Hughes never had a chance in this camp. But he certainly missed a chance to make us feel he belonged at the doorstep, not in Lackawana County.