Phil Hughes Helps Make the Yankees Look Smart

Hughes and Joba each get their jobs done

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    It seems like a lot more than three weeks ago that the Yankees were mulling over their decision about whether to put Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain into the starting rotation.

    That's probably because the team didn't need to use a fifth starter until Thursday night, but also because such battles matter a lot more when nothing is going on than when the team is actually playing games that count.

    But there Hughes was on the mound at Yankee Stadium against the Angels and it's hard to feel anything but positive about the way things played out. He struck out six and allowed two runs over five-plus innings of work that was rarely spectacular but more than good enough to get him a win in his season debut.

    Turn that in once every five days and all will work out fine, even if Javier Vazquex never figures out how to put one foot in front of the other.

    That's the thing about being the fifth -- or third or fourth or, really, any number -- starter for the Yankees. Give up a couple of runs over five or six innings and you're going to get yourself quite a few victories over the course of the season. On Thursday night it was Robinson Cano blasting a pair of homers and Curtis Granderson tripling twice to provide plenty of offense. Those names will change from night to night in a deep lineup, but the end result is usually going to be something like we saw in the 6-2 win. 

    Hughes and the rest of the rotation also have the help of the bullpen, of course. Chamberlain is slowly taking a grip of the highest leverage role in front of Mariano Rivera and did a bang-up job by inducing a double play to end the eighth. He allowed a couple of hitters to reach base in the ninth and Joe Girardi summoned Rivera to close things out. 

    It would have been nice to let Joba try to escape the jam, especially since a home run wasn't going to give up the lead, but Girardi loves his pitching changes. It had also become a save situation and modern managers seem unable to let one of those fall by the wayside even if the game wasn't in all that much doubt.

    We'll give him a pass, though, since his larger decision about the makeup of the pitching staff was proven correct earlier in the evening.

    Forget the small battle, concentrate on the larger war and all works out well for the Yankees.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.