Phil Hughes spent the afternoon looking at photos of himself from last October, when he shut the Twins down in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, pitching seven scoreless innings. Hughes was comparing those photos with ones from his Sunday start against the Tigers, when he gave up five runs in four innings and his velocity dipped below 90 miles per hour for most of the day.
The 24-year-old said he thinks he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild found some things to correct in his mechanics: namely, his head positioning and his arm swing being too long. Hughes also said he plans to do more long tossing before his start Friday afternoon in Boston.
As many people have correctly noted, one start is not nearly enough to judge Hughes either positively or negatively. First of all his biggest problem right now seems to be velocity. It has turned his fastball from a plus pitch to one that hitters can foul off while they wait for a better pitch to handle and it has turned Hughes into a pitcher to be feared into one hitters can work with. If he can get that velocity back then he can start to fulfill his potential as a front end starter.
The thing is that pitcher’s velocities are typically down this time of the year. As Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues has noted that Rafael Soriano‘s velocity is also down so far this year as is Jon Lester and Felix Hernandez‘s and it isn’t likely that all three are dealing with injuries. Pitchers experiencing poor velocity this time of the year is not uncommon.
Hughes should get some speed back as time goes on and if he has indeed identified a mechanical flaw that could go a long way toward fixing this problem as well. Either way, it is important for Hughes to get that velocity back, but there is no reason to panic just yet.