Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland went on WFAN last week and spoke with Sweeny Murti about what the potential rules for Phil Hughes would be if he earned a spot in the Yankees rotation. They wouldn’t be as strict as the “Joba Rules,” but there certainly would be rules.
“You’ve got to remember, Joba had restrictions because he never had a full season in the professional baseball as a starter,” Eiland said. “Phil Hughes has had several minor league seasons as a starter.
“So there’s going to be restrictions, but they’re not going to be as strenuous as Joba and I’ll just leave it at that, right there. There’s restrictions, and were on the side of caution with all our guys. Whether it’s the number one guy to the 12th guy in the bullpen. Were not going to abuse anybody or put anyone’s career in jeopardy.”
The Yankees held Joba Chamberlain to about 157.1 innings last season. His previous high was 112.1 innings in 2007 or 118.2 in 2005 with Nebraska. What the Yankees did was try to keep him within 40 innings of his previous high.
In contrast, Hughes’ career high innings pitched was 146 in 2006. That makes me think that his innings limit could be as high as 185 with some flexibility. My guess is that they would go as high as 200 if they were in a close pennant race and needed him out there, but that is stretching it.
Over the last three seasons Hughes has been right around the 100 inning mark so there is a possibility that they might keep him slightly lower because of that. It seems though that the biggest concern is forcing a guy to throw more than he’s ever thrown before though and not what he’s done the previous season.
The fact that Eiland is being purposefully vague means we aren’t really going to be sure what the Yankees are going to do with Hughes until they do it. Still, it seems to be a safe bet that with a potential cap around 185 innings he’ll largely be allowed to just pitch. By the end of the season if his innings total is really high then they’ll probably start pulling him out of starts early. Even then it still probably won’t be as bad as what Joba went through over the last two years.
What’s your take? Too many restrictions on Hughes or not enough? Are the Yankees doing the right thing?