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Hughes Dominates at AAA
By Tony Gicas | July 24th, 2007
Phil Hughes looked like his normal dominant self tonight. He did his best Picasso impression, using his 4-seam fastball to paint the inside and outside corners black. The two strikeouts to end the 6th were especially impressive as he struck out looking both top-prospect Joey Votto and Aaron Herr with fastballs on the outside corner. His fastball was said to be sitting at 92-93, though he probably touched 94-95 at one time or another.
The most encouraging sign that Hughes is ready to again make the jump into the big leagues came during a jam. Hughes allowed a frozen-rope double to lead off the 5th inning. The next batter walked. With men on first and second, the batter attempted to bunt the runners over. The bunt came to the thirdbase side of the mound and Hughes nimbly fielded and fired to third baseman Chris Basak. Although it was a close play at third, it appeared the runner would’ve been ruled out had Basak not dropped the ball. Louisville was setup to score its first run of the ballgame with the bases juiced and ZERO outs.
Hughes illustrated the meaning of “baring down” by getting the first batter to popup harmlessly to shallow rightfield. One away, no runs in. The greedy observer would look for a groundball or flyout in the hopes of only allowing one run to score. Hughes had no intentions of letting a baserunner cross homeplate. Showing the poise and command that’s rocketed him atop pitching prospect lists, Hughes struck out the next two batters, thereby escaping a bases loaded - none out - jam.
Somewhere Brian Cashman is wondering if Hughes could pitch on one-day’s rest in place of the sinking Kei Igawa.
He threw a few excellent changeups, but his overall command of it was only so-so. His curveball looked exceptional throughout most of the ballgame, falling off the table when ahead in the count.
His command early on was pretty obscene and at one point he threw 23 of 28 pitches for strikes. The final strike-to-ball ratio is pretty indicative of how the 21 year old pitched. After his exit Hughes threw about 15-18 more pitches in the bullpen to raise his pitchcount to 90 overall.
In my opinion, Hughes could take a big league mound in 5 days if he were ask to do so. Striking out the last two batters he faced supports the idea that Phil could have gone another 20 pitches tonight. Last week, following Phil’s final start at Trenton, Cashman told us that the objective was to get Hughes to 100 pitches in a game before recalling him. That said, the way the rotation lines up, it’s unlikely that tonight’s start was his last for Scranton. Igawa, the man he presumably will replace, pitches July 26th and again on July 31st. That would be two straight turns in which Phil received 6 days of rest. Doesn’t make it impossible, but probably works against him skipping a final start for Scranton. Whatever the case, Phil looks ready in every sense of the word.
1. The line: 6 I/P, 0 ER, 2 hits, 7 K’s, 1 BB and 72 pitches (54 strikes).
2. Over his 4 rehab starts: 15 I/P; 1 ER; 6 hits; 6 walks; 21 strikeouts;
3. Throwing strikes: Over his last 3 starts Hughes has thrown 172 pitches with 121 going for strikes. That works out to a 70% strike-to-ball ratio
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