April 14, 2011

Swapping Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon

Tonight is a very important night for Phil Hughes, according to NY Post’s Joel Sherman. He proposed this morning that if Hughes pitches poorly again tonight, Bartolo Colon could take his spot in the rotation and Hughes could be moved back to the bullpen. Sherman’s gut tells him Hughes likely would go to the minors rather than the bullpen in order to work out his pitching problems without having to think about winning.

Two months ago, I would have laughed at the idea. Now that Colon is on the team and pitching well, I actually have to consider it.

It pains me to say it, but Hughes hasn’t been Hughes this year. He hasn’t been himself since last summer, and one of my Twitter followers thinks he hasn’t been himself since 2007, when he left a game in the middle of a no-hitter due to an injured hamstring.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but his problem lies in velocity. However, this nugget from LoHud might be the key bit of information people, including myself, are overlooking.

Last season, Phil Hughes’ velocity dipped in the first week of April. No one cared because he was in extended spring training. He didn’t make his first big league start until April 15, and at that point, the arm strength showed up and so did the velocity.

“It wasn’t something I felt in the bullpen,” Hughes said. “It was just there for my first start. Whether it was adrenaline-based or whether it took that much time for my arm to get in shape, I don’t know what it was. That was something in the back of my head that I was hanging on to, thinking that I didn’t make my first start until the 15th, so maybe my arm takes longer to get going and it will be there tomorrow. I can hope for that, but it’s not something I’m necessarily 100 percent banking on.”

So, what do you think, is tonight the tell-all start? Or do we need to give Hughes until the end of May to show he can still be a major league starter?

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