It’s no secret to anyone that Phil Hughes had a bad year last year. By his own admission, he was out of shape (read HERE) and because of that, had a hard time staying healthy and at the top of his game. It’s hard to forget the feelings of hope mixed with fear when Joe Girardi called Hughes to the stage. More often than not, Hughes failed to deliver a solid, consistent and reliable game during the 2011 season.What a difference a winter makes. While other players were still enjoying sitting around the hot stove, Hughes went to work early. He’s been working out 4 days a week, and replaced a substantial amount of his body weight with lean muscle mass. At 25 years old, he weighs the
same as he did last year- but his 6’5, 240 lb. frame is now packed with increased strength and solid muscle. He’s been hard at work getting healthy and in shape, and it shows. It’s only natural to assume that the increase in strength and muscle will only benefit his pitching performance, bringing more control to his arm and more precision to his pitches. Not to mention, looking at the “New Hughes” isn’t so bad on the eyes.
Hughes has been at the Yankees Minor League complex working out voluntarily well before the date that pitchers and catchers are expected to report for Spring Training. He’s engaged in a series of voluntary workouts, including at least three bullpen sessions a week. Reports are that he is focused, driven and has one and only one vision... get out of the bullpen and into the game.
The bullpen is not the goal for Phil Hughes. His mission is to be a part of the 2012 starting pitching rotation. Remember, he was told that he was a starter, and to think like a starter. With AJ Burnett out of the lineup (You’re welcome by the way! Read, WHAT TO EXPECT FOR BURNETT IN SPRING TRAINING), Hughes will settle for nothing less than a permanent spot in the 5-maybe 6 man regular pitching rotation.But can he do it? I think so. He’s a 25 year old year old powerhouse with enough drive and ambition to get his physical act together all winter, and no doubt during that time, he’s been able to settle down and become more comfortable in his own skin. He’s had the “stuff” before, he can have it again. We can speculate like the other bloggers as to what went wrong, where the glitch was last year, etc... but to be honest, why focus on the problem when the solution is already underway? With Spring Training already within our grasp, we’ll have some answers fairly quickly. Personally, I’m pulling for Hughes; any pitcher with that kind of drive and determination is someone I want there. Until then, while we wait, watch and see, Phil Hughes is working like hell to get where he wants to be and I love it.