(Courtesy of the AP)
Thanks to his gross ineffectiveness in his 9 previous starts, the Yankees elected to push Phil Hughes back to yesterday, preventing him from pitching in a meaningful game against an AL Wild Card competitor over the weekend. Strategically it was a smart decision, although the same argument could be made for CC Sabathia, and it almost paid off in spades when the Yankees came within 9 outs of sweeping the Orioles.
Now they face the same dilemma with Hughes heading into this weekend's big series with Baahhhhhston and yesterday's rain-shortened outing did nothing to move the confidence needle in either direction. Yes, it was Hughes' first scoreless outing since May and we should all be very proud of him for that, but his overall body of work this summer still isn't nearly good enough to trust him with the ball in an important game. If he wasn't good enough to pitch against the O's, why would he be good enough to pitch against a team 8 games better than the O's?
Mike Axisa already delved into this a little deeper over at RAB this morning, laying out the 3 scenarios the Yankees have to choose from with respect to Hughes' spot in the rotation. Personally, I like the idea of starting Hughes tomorrow to avoid the weekend series and just repeating what they did yesterday by having a fully-stocked bullpen ready to back him up if/when he starts to shit the bed. It gives CC an extra day of rest before the weekend series and in theory gives the Yankees the best chance to win in each of those 4 games.
What I don't like is what a constant micro-management activity Hughes' starts have become. He's been so bad that his market value has to be bottoming out right now and the Yanks have already committed to making a qualifying offer after this season. I can't imagine Cash is going to be happy about offering up that much money to a below-average starting pitcher who the team has done everything to avoid in critical spots down the stretch, and I can't imagine teams are going to be willing to give up a high draft pick to sign that pitcher to a multi-year deal. This is all seems like it's heading towards Hughes being back next year as a $14 million 5th starter/long reliever.