Trenton, New Jersey – Phil Hughes needed to be better than his last minor league outing. Mission definitively accomplished.
Hughes returned to his old stomping grounds in what could be his second to last rehab appearance, pitching 6 1/3 innings and throwing 88 pitches. He worked quickly and smartly, not to mention fearlessly. He pitched to contact, attacking with a quality and consistent fastball and cutter, allowing just 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks and struck out 8.
“[My comfort level from last start to this one] was much better. I felt like I was throwing more strikes today. Until the end I was commanding the baseball pretty well. I threw a couple poor changeups and the curveball I couldn’t really command height-wise. But fastball-cutter was pretty good.”
Velocity is the other part of the equation and certainly the most concerning. According to a scout at the game Hughes threw his cutter between 91-93 and reached 94. He consistently threw in the mid-90′s.
Hughes will likely need one more start. But the guy behind the plate has even more confidence in him.
“I think he’s ready [to go back to the big leagues] right now,” said Thunder All-Star catcher Austin Romine. “He was very on top of stuff today. He threw in and out well. Cutters in and out. He said he wanted to work on his curveball today and we got a lot of those in there.
Thunder manager Tony Franklin said in a pre-game interview that they Yankees wanted between 85-90 pitches out of Hughes. Franklin could only speak for himself, but what he saw impressed him.
“My pitcher was extremely good. He looked like he was in very good rhythm with his delivery and his mechanics. I never saw a pitch that missed location by a wide margin. That’s a pretty good indication that he’s staying within his lines. He was very good in New Britain, but his command was probably better here.”
Yankees GM Brian Cashman was in attendance for most of the game. What he came to see, he saw.