First Pitch: Hughes' reliever mentality


It was just two years ago. Phil Hughes had three starts in April. He won two of them and lost none. His ERA stood at 2.00. His WHIP was less than one. He struck out a batter per inning.

He did it all with the mindset that he brought with him from 2009 when he was the bridge to Mariano Rivera. Starting tonight, Hughes plans to shift his focus so it is like it was just 24 months ago.

"I'm just trying to get some things going that kind of click for me," Hughes said. "I'm basically trying to get back to that reliever mentality. It is more of a aggressive mindset and not trying to reserve anything. It was sort of mindset I had at the beginning of 2010 when I was coming out of the bullpen, off that bullpen season."

Hughes is comforted that his fastball is in the 90s. A year ago at this time, his "fastball had nothing on it," in his words.

"My stuff is there," Hughes said. "It is just a matter of trusting it and being aggressive. That is basically it."

Hughes is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA. His WHIP is nearly two. He is striking batters out with more than a strikeout an inning. The problem has been that A.J. Burnett quality of looking good before a mistake here and mistake there erases what could have been a nice evening.

"I'm getting beaten a lot with my secondary stuff," Hughes said. "For me, being primarily a fastball guy. It stings a little more. I live and die with my fastball and I'm getting beat with curveballs, cutters and change-ups. It makes it a little more tough to swallow."

Even with Freddy Garcia already demoted to the bullpen, Hughes knows that he could be next. Especially with Andy Pettitte's return around the corner.

"If you are not on top of your game, you are going to pay for it," Hughes said.

UP NOW: Wally Matthews on Hiroki Kuroda. Andy Pettitte says he is ready to return and we have highlights and his comments.

ON DECK: Tonight, it is Hughes (1-3, 7.88) vs. Brian Matutz (0-3, 5.66). On Wednesday, Ivan Nova (3-0, 5.18 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-2, 4.45).

IN THE HOLE: I'll be out at the Stadium along with spring sensation, Kieran Darcy. We'll be on the blog all day. Thanks for reading.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you like Hughes' new/old attitude?