September 6, 2009

Hughes coming up huge in relief

He was converted to a reliever in the beginning of June to temporarily make room for Chien-Ming Wang. But the Yankees could never remove Phil Hughes out of relief when they saw how good he was.

Hughes has filled in for the injured Mariano Rivera twice in the last few days, and has nailed down two four-out saves in a row. Rivera should be available tonight, but Hughes’ dominance has kept fans calm about Rivera’s situation.

You may see Hughes’ ERA in the box at 3.11, and think, “Eh, he’s having a decent year.” Well, he’s actually having a terrific year. Here’s his line out of the bullpen this season:

2-1, 1.11 ERA, 3/3 SV/SVO, 40-2/3 IP, 22 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 10 BB, 54 K.

He hasn’t allowed a run since Aug. 4. And before July 30, he didn’t allow a run in 16 straight appearances. He’s also perfect in his last four outings (5 IP, 9K).

These numbers seem awfully familiar for a young right-handed pitcher, who doesn’t know if he will be a reliever or starter for the rest of his career. I’m thinking of Joba Chamberlain in 2007.

The Yankees will see what happens in the playoffs with Hughes as the primary setup man, and presumably Chamberlain as the No. 4 starter. What happens in 2010, and beyond, remains to be seen.

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