Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain could be in their final season in Pinstripes

*Feb 19 - 00:05*

Phil Hughes rebounded from a couple of bad starts earlier in the season when he probably wasn’t quite ready to pitch and looked great last night as he held the Diamondbacks to just two runs over seven innings.

Joba Chamberlain also looked solid, pumping in 95 mph fastballs and was even able to locate them well in a 1.1 innings that made his earlier, more putrid appearances somewhat forgettable.

In years past it would have been a good feeling to see those two former prospects having success and flashing really good stuff. However, this season, less than a year away from free agency for both of them, it just kind of makes me sad to think that both of them very well could be moving on after this season.

There are different reasons for both. For Hughes that painful reminder came in the form of a pair of home runs hit against him last night. He kept the damage to a minimum like he tends to do as they were both solo shots, but he’s up to five homers allowed on the season already as it appears that the 35 he gave up last season was not an outlier and will instead be the norm.

That’s just going to be life with Hughes. He’s a solid pitcher, but as an extreme fly ball pitcher working in the bandbox Yankee Stadium he’s never going to be better than league average. If he moved to the National League, with weaker lineups and bigger ball parks, it’s easy to envision him finally reaching his full potential.

Joba is a bit different. He doesn’t have to get away from Yankee Stadium, he has to get away from the Yankees, a team that has basically wasted his talent.

He’s never reached his potential either, but he was barely even given a chance to succeed. He flashed great stuff in 2008 out of the rotation, but was never allowed to pitch every five days like normal starters do. Then again in 2009 he was allowed to make 31 starts, but it came with the same extreme pitch counts and a few two or three inning starts. The Yankees then pulled him out of the rotation having never allowed him a chance to work as if he were a normal starter.

Since then he’s been put in a middle relief role where the Yankees basically wasted his talent. Injuries have kept him from getting comfortable in that role too and when you watch him, it’s easy to tell that he needs to pitch a lot of innings to do well too. Last year coming back from Tommy John, he was awful until eventually he worked through it. We’re seeing the same thing early on this year where he’s looking a little bit better each time out.

He appears to be a guy who needs to throw a lot to be successful. He’s also a guy who has expressed a desire to start. This leads me to wonder what could have happened if the Yankees had just left him alone in the rotation if he would have eventually just gotten comfortable and pitched successfully.

We also wouldn’t be in the spot where we are now. A year from free agency, Joba is making a lot less than Phil Hughes and he’s smart enough to have finally realized that starters make a lot more money. That’s why he finally spoke up and told everyone that he still wants to be a starter. And if I’m right, leaving him alone to pitch a lot and regularly in a rotation could be exactly what he needs to finally develop and reach his potential.

That won’t be with the Yankees though. When he expressed a desire to go back to the rotation, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi didn’t just say that wasn’t going to happen, they pretty much insulted the guy too. What they were basically telling him is that if you want to be a starting pitcher it’s not going to happen here.

So he’ll hit the free agent market this offseason where he might get as much as a two-year, $10 million offer as a reliever, but could make so much more as a starter. And we know the Texas Rangers, who love converting relievers to starters, already have interest in him. It’s not hard to imagine him singing an incentive heavy deal where he could both start and have a chance to make some real money.

It was great seeing two Yankees prospects pitching effectively last night even as the Yankees lost. But it was hard to think about the fact that both of these guys will probably have to leave this offseason to finally be able to reach their potential.

At least the Yankees have their next pitching prospect trio in Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, and Manny Banuelos ready to step in and replace…oh yeah. Never mind.

• Derek Jeter will be out until after the All-Star Break with a crack in his surgically repaired ankle, but Brian Cashman said the team will not pursue a shortstop. It sounds like Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix will be the Yankees shortstops for the rest of the year instead. I still think they’ll at least find somebody for depth though.

Clay Rapada is going to make a rehab start today. He’s not being converted, this is more likely just about getting him as many innings as possible before he returns to the Yankees.

J.R. Murphy had a bit of a disappointing finish in Double-A last year, but he’s off to a hot start there so far and set a Trenton Thunder record by smacking three home runs last night.

The Yankees are heading to Toronto and Tampa Bay next. You can get Yankees tickets even when they’re on the road through us.

About Rob Abruzzese

Rob Abruzzese created Bronx Baseball Daily in 2008 just before graduating from Brooklyn College. He currently serves BBD as its editor and works as a reporter at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobAbruzzese.

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One Response to Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain could be in their final season in Pinstripes

  1. mikefoxtrot says:

    Joba can spend the year learning to command his fastball…. and learning to trust that he can throw the thing at 3-2 rather than always throwing the slider….. and can then make as much money as a closer as most starting pitchers are paid.

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