First Pitch: Hughes' final start as a Yankee?

September, 25, 2013
NEW YORK -- If this is how it ends for the Yankees, it might be fitting.

Phil Hughes will be on the mound on Wednesday with a two-inch leash. The moment trouble finds him, Joe Girardi likely will pop out of the dugout and put in David Huff. Girardi won't let this hopeless season end with the ball in Hughes' hand.

[+] EnlargePhil Hughes
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsPhil Hughes takes the hill on a short leash in a must-win game.
When you think about why the Yankees are destined to be on the outside looking in next month, it might begin with Hughes. You can argue about the injuries, but those are just unlucky and unpredictable. You could say that if CC Sabathia were himself, this year would have finished differently. CC sort of made that argument on Tuesday. Still, Sabathia is 33 and was due for a bad year.

That leaves us with Hughes, who has broken the Yankees' dream by not living up to expectations. Why has he done it? Is it a lack of determination? He never added the secondary pitches that are required to be in top half of the rotation. Was he just not good enough? It could be that the hype outdistanced the ability.

One thing is for certain: his style -- a fly-ball pitcher -- isn't fit for Yankee Stadium. That is why he won't be back. He will go somewhere -- probably on the West Coast and maybe in the NL -- and might have some success.

He is never going to be a big-time pitcher in the Bronx. The Yankees just want one more good start, so they can keep their slimmest of slim hopes alive.

WHERE THEY STAND: A Yankees loss or an Indians win eliminates them. Here are the wild-card standings.

UP NOW: Ian O'Connor on why Joe Girardi should stay and my blog on how Girardi says the position the Yanks find themselves in hurts. My news story on CC Sabathia believing he will be a No. 1 again next season, provided he changes how he goes about his business. There was a bobblehead issue in the Bronx.

IN THE HOLE: David Price (8-8, 3.43) vs. Hughes (4-13, 5.07). Wallace Matthews and Mike Mazzeo will have you covered.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is the biggest reason the Yankees won't make the playoffs?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »



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