Over his last few starts Phil Hughes has really begun to turn his season around, but one thing that has consistently plagued him even as he improves – home runs. Hughes has now given up at least one home run in each start this season, 10 in total, and is on pace to surrender 50 if he can throw 200 innings this season.
On Thursday, Hughes was solid against the Blue Jays. Even when he got into situations where back in April he might get rattled and give up a few runs, he was able to maintain his composure and escape. The only problem he really had was a two-run shot by Jose Bautista in the 3rd inning.
“I felt like he had seen a lot of fastballs, and that would be a good pitch,” Hughes told Chad Jennings of the Journal News. “But it was spinning over the plate, wasn’t down and away where I would have liked to have it. Looking back, that was the costly mistake. … I threw a 3-2 curveball his third at-bat that I got a strikeout on, so maybe that would have been the better sequence. Hindsight.”
This is the thing about Hughes. He is still becoming a pitcher and not so much a thrower. His cutter has been his most inconsistent pitch over his career and these days he has largely abandoned it. But while he still figures out what he’s doing, he needs to be smart with how he works hitters. A pitcher who really has three pitches shouldn’t be throwing his fourth best pitch to a home run hitter like Bautista in a tight situation like that.
Hughes also struggled with his pitch count, something that has been a common theme in his starts. That goes hand in hand with becoming more of a pitcher. Hopefully both with come in time. It’s easy to forget that for the five years that he has been in the Major Leagues already, Hughes is still just 25-years-old.