(Hope Joe's ready to make this walk again. Courtesy of Getty Images)
Guess that bullpen demotion was just a temporary thing. After only 1 missed start in the rotation - against the Red Sox this past Saturday - and a pair of meaningless relief appearances, Phil Hughes will re-replace David Huff in the rotation and make the start in tonight's series finale against the O's.
Joe' motivation for making the swap again is questionable at best. This is the same Phil Hughes who was deemed no longer worthy of his rotation spot after a crappy appearance against the slap-hitting Toronto lineup and the same Phil Hughes who has given up 7 ER on 14 hits (5 of them home runs) in 9 total IP over 2 starts against Baltimore this season. His weaknesses as a pitcher are what the Baltimore lineup thrives against and if he wasn't getting the job done against inferior competition why would be worthy of essentially getting a promotion against better competition?
On the other side of the coin, Hughes' better start against Baltimore came in May at Camden Yards. He pitched 6 innings, only gave up 2 ER, and struck out 5 compared to none in his April start at The Stadium. Hughes also has a solid history pitching at Camden and against Baltimore, including a 6.2 inning/1-run game in Game 4 of last year's ALDS. It's classic Joe going with the binder, and when you consider what Hughes and Huff have offered as starters I guess that's as good a strategy as any. There are just as many righties who can take a pitcher yard in the Baltimore lineup as there are lefties.
What really sticks in my craw about this move is how pointless it rendered the previous decision to pull Hughes from the rotation. That should have been the end of him as a starter and now he's right back out there. He hasn't been effective anywhere and now it's almost as if Joe doesn't know what to do with him anymore. If that's the case, why not just not use him? He hasn't earned the right to get this job back and there's no reason to expect him to be better than what he was 2 weeks ago. If Huff isn't the answer, give Brett Marshall a shot. What's the worst that could happen? He sucks and Joe goes to the 'pen, same as he's done with Phil for most of the season.
Phil has basically become that one person from high school or college that everybody keeps in their phone for a late night hookup option. You never feel good about yourself when you hit him/her up, you never know quite what you're going to get when he/she pitches/shows up at your place, the results usually aren't all that spectacular, and you're always left wondering why you did it when it's over. That's Phil Hughes in a nutshell. He's a random, throwaway drunk hookup option for Joe when it comes to filling an open rotation spot. Helluva choice to start a game that could pull your team within 1 game of a Wild Card spot.