The Yankees have yet to make an official announcement, but according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, in the next couple of days they will announce that the winner of the position will be Phil Hughes.
There are still meetings this week, still final statements that could be offered, still an injury that can change minds and needs. But this was a competition in the faintest of ways. As I reported in early February, the Yankees brass was going to enter spring privately viewing Hughes as the clear fifth starter frontrunner.
The reality is that no one else could win the job. Hughes could only lose it. And strangely, he sealed the win Monday when, of all things, he lost by surrendering three homers, including a walk-off shot by Philadelphia’s Wilson Valdez.
Thoughts: While it worries me that the Yankees may have given up on Joba Chamberlain too early, it is hard to be upset when a player of Hughes’ talent is inserted into the rotation. As long as Joba is given another chance to return to the rotation in the event of an injury or even next season, then this can’t be looked at as bad news.
In a way, even if you’re like me and wanted Joba in the rotation, this is a good thing. Joba was stretched out pretty far last season compared to previous years and with that comes injury risk. By putting him in the bullpen this season and limiting his innings you minimize that risk and if he is in the rotation in the future he should still be capable of going 150 innings or more.
Meanwhile, by putting Hughes in the rotation now you avoid the risk of stunting his development. He was simply electric last season coming out of the bullpen and his confidence on the mound is visibly better. The problem is that out of the bullpen he really only threw a fastball and a curve. He only occasionally threw his cutter and rarely if ever threw his changeup. He’s put a lot of work into the changeup especially this spring, but another year in the bullpen could have cost him the pitch altogether.
Hughes took big leaps as a major leaguer last season, this opportunity is putting him in position to take even bigger steps in the future.
The bottom line is that no matter who you were pulling for, Joba, Hughes, or other, this Yankee rotation is flat out nasty. One through five it is probably the strongest it’s been in the past 10 years.
What do you think? Have the Yankees made the right decision here? Or is this a signal that they’ve given up on Joba?