Phil Hughes Saves the Weekend

Rotation concerns quiet a bit after Hughes's Sunday win.

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Jul 18, 2011  |  Updated 7:44 AM EDT
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He looks like Hughes, but the pitching was much better than we've seen from Hughes.

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It has been so long since we've seen a confident, composed Phil Hughes have his way with a big league lineup that Sunday afternoon demanded a lot of eye rubbing to confirm what we were seeing was real.

For the first time all season, Hughes had a full complement of weapons available to him on the mound.

He had good velocity that didn't dip noticeably as the innings rolled by, he flashed precise command of his pitches and showed an improved curveball that broke crisply instead of slowly tumbling through the hitting zone.

The result was six strong innings -- four hits, two runs, two walks and five strikeouts -- and a 7-2 Yankees win that did a lot to quiet growing concerns about the state of the rotation. The numbers are good, but watching Hughes did even more to make it feel like he's turned a corner.

Hughes didn't generate a single swing and miss off his fastball in his first start off the disabled list, but he got six of them on Sunday including three in a dominating strikeout of J.P. Arencibia. He also seemed to gain confidence as the afternoon rolled along, needing 20 pitches to get out of the first but just 15 to finish off the Jays in the fifth and sixth combined.

It was, in short, everything the Yankees needed to see from Hughes to quiet the rumbling concerns about the state of the rotation. A bad outing for Hughes would have done more than lost the Yankees the series, it would have set off deafening alarms about the state of the team's rotation.

Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were both awful to kick off the series, raising concerns about their ability to see out the rest of the season the same way they handled the first half. CC Sabathia was brilliant on Saturday, but Sabathia's always brilliant and it will take more than him for the Yankees to steer their way to October.

One start doesn't mean that all the concerns have gone away, but seeing an effective Hughes does make it easier to believe the train hasn't jumped off the tracks. It also makes it easier to totally laugh off the Rockies' extortionate demands in a trade for Ubaldo Jimenez.

According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Rox want Jesus Montero, Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Ivan Nova for Jimenez. That's the cream of the Yankee system and the kind of deal that is best associated with the worst of the George Steinbrenner era of sacrificing the future for the present.

There's no way the Yankees should do that, yet you would have heard people seriously considering it if Hughes had flopped on Sunday. Perspective has been restored, though, and any trade talk can now continue in more realistic terms.

At least until the next bad start when we'll start the carousel over again.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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