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Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Hughes disappointed, not surprised

By Wallace Matthews

NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes chuckled softly when asked if he had been "blindsided" by the news that he would be replaced in the rotation this weekend against the Boston Red Sox by David Huff.

"I wouldn’t say I was blindsided, no," he said. "I was disappointed and surprised, but it certainly wasn’t like, 'How could they do this, I been pitching well all year?' So I'm kind of in-between."

In other words, Yankees fans, as disappointed as you are in Hughes, Hughes is even more disappointed in himself. And, no doubt, by the cold reality that as the Yankees make their push for a playoff spot, he will probably not be a part of it in any meaningful way, a tough verdict to take under any circumstances but even more so considering that as a looming free agent, Hughes is probably in his final month as a Yankee.

"I don’t really think about that," he said. "I’m just kinda more worried about the day to day and just doing whatever I can to help this team. Hopefully, it’s a good September that we have and there’s some more baseball after that."

But obviously, it stung to hear that, one year after he won 16 games as a starter and three seasons removed from the 18-8 year that marked the high point of his Yankees tenure, he would finish out his Yankees career as a middle reliever. Hughes is 4-13 with a 4.86 ERA -- lower than CC Sabathia's ERA this season -- in 26 starts, and while his home run total (23) was way down from last year's 35, Hughes once again showed himself to be singularly unsuited to pitching in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.

At home this year, Hughes was 1-9 with a 5.68 ERA; on the road, he is 3-4 with a 3.84, and with the Red Sox -- against whom Hughes has a 10.38 ERA this season -- coming to the Bronx for a crucial four-game set starting tomorrow night, the Yankees clearly felt it was too risky to send Hughes out there again. Huff, a 29-year-old left-hander claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Indians in May, is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in six relief appearances as a Yankee. Opposing hitters have a .135 batting average against Huff; they were hitting .285 against Hughes.

"Huff’s been throwing the ball extremely well, and I haven’t all year, so, I can obviously see why they made that decision," Hughes said. "Again, it’s disappointing, but we’re in the middle of a playoff race and that was the decision they wanted to make."

Joe Girardi said the resumption of Hughes' bullpen career -- he was extremely effective in 2009 as a setup man for Mariano Rivera -- could begin as early as tonight in the series finale against the Chicago White Sox.