23 Scoreless Innings for Hughes

Phil Hughes the highly touted pitching prospect for the Yankees has just finished his twenty-third consecutive scoreless inning as the Yankees set-up man. This the same Hughes that most Yankees fans would have been glad to ship out to the Twins along with other prospects for Johan Santana a couple seasons ago. Now twenty-three seems like an arbitrary number to celebrate but the importance is it is the first time a Yankee reliever has done it since 2005 when Mariano Rivera managed the same feat. So now with this number would it be wise to consider Hughes to be a reliever for the rest of his career and an eventual replacement for Rivera?

On first glance it doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. Rivera started his career as a set-up man and has turned into possibly the best closer in Major League history. If Hughes can come close to that production by the end of his career the move would definitely be worth it. The problem is the Yankees have the perfect player to replace Rivera in their starting rotation. Now I know this issue has been talked about a ton but that was more, should Joba be a starter or reliever. Well now the issue is slightly different, with the Yankees having two young players who found success in the bullpen despite originally intending the player to be a starter, which one should replace Rivera and which one should stay in the rotation? Well you could possibly have one the set-up man and one the closer and have arguably the best one-two punch in baseball for the next decade but I don’t see the Yankees taking two highly touted starting pitching prospects and putting them both in the bullpen.

Ultimately I believe Joba should be the closer because while I believe Hughes could do a good job in the role I believe Joba is a much more dominating reliever. As a reliever Joba can push the fastball back up to the 100 mph area he had hit consistently as a reliever. In addition I believe as a reliever you can get away with just two pitches and with his fastball and slider working Joba is flat out dominate and while he is a good starter he is an amazing reliever. Hughes on the other hand is a good reliever but I don’t believe he can be as dominate as Joba and I also believe Hughes’s top three pitches are better set up for a starter. If he developed his curveball something he could do as a starter, he could develop into a very good pitcher. The only way I see keeping Joba in the rotation and having Hughes close is if you believe Joba will eventually be an ace, or you do not believe Hughes will ever be that great of a starting pitcher.

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