After struggling for a year and a half in the rotation, Phil Hughes earned himself some praise this spring for the way he pitched, but most fans, myself included, have all but written him off by this point and are counting down the days until Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda will come back to knock him out of the rotation.
Pettitte and Pineda aren’t back yet though so for now Hughes still has a couple more starts to prove that he deserves to stay. And he’s thinks he knows why he’s struggling – he’s not using his fastball enough.
“Yeah, the changeup and the cutter obviously have their spots, but when I rely on one thing or the other too much that sometimes gets me in trouble,” Hughes told Roderick Boone of Newsday. “That goes along with fastball command. I’m constantly behind trying to go to other things to try to get back into [favorable counts]. So the fastball really has to be the biggest priority for me and I can go from there.”
Hughes has actually gotten away from his fastball a bit this year, throwing the pitch 57.4 percent of the time. Instead he has relied on a cutter, curveball, changeup combo although none of the pitches have been very effective so far this season.
Hughes also talked about trying to get ahead in at bats early, but honestly it has looked more like he is having problems putting hitters away rather than getting ahead. It’s become somewhat of a joke that Hughes can get to 0-2 only to fall behind a hitter 3-2.
Either way, I don’t expect much from Hughes at this point. Sure, he is talking about something he fixed, but this has become somewhat of an annual tradition. Hughes struggles – he says he spotted something mechanical – and then doesn’t do enough to fix the problem.