(Courtesy of Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post)
Since he first broke into the Majors in 2007, there's always been something that's held Phil Hughes back from reaching his full potential as a starting pitcher. First it was his health, then the flip-flopping of his role between starter and reliever, then the regression of his offspeed stuff and inability to effectively develop and use a strong second and third pitch, and now in 2012 it was the high number of home runs he allowed. Hughes' high HR total put a bit of a damper on what could have been his best season to date last year, and became the latest reason to question his potential ceiling as a starter and his future with the organization.
Phil signed a 1-year deal for a pretty good salary recently and will head into this season with a lot to prove and a lot of money to potentially earn. Correcting the HR problems that plagued him in 2012 and finding a way to cut down on the longball will be key for Hughes this year. As a flyball pitcher, it's not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it could be the determining factor in just how much money Hughes gets after this season and who he gets it from.