Phil Hughes Has Quite a Bit to Pitch For - NBC New York

Phil Hughes Has Quite a Bit to Pitch For

The return of the phenom coincides with a crucial moment for the Yankees

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    Who knew a Tuesday night in Detroit could have so much riding on it.

    Nothing like a nice, easy situation to break Phil Hughes back into the big leagues.

    The Yankees have lost four straight after watching CC Sabathia get outpitched by Justin Verlander on Monday night, and desperately need a win to forestall the creeping feelings of negativity that surround the team. You can talk about all the injuries that have made this a difficult spot for the Yankees, but the effect matters a lot more than the cause. The levee is about to break, and Hughes is tasked with making sure it doesn't happen. 

    Ending a losing streak is hardly the only thing on the line for Hughes. Chien-Ming Wang's disastrous start makes it impossible to count on him for anything for a good long while, so the Yankees need some stability in his spot in the rotation. Hughes doesn't just need to pitch well tonight, he needs to pitch well for the foreseeable future.

    If Hughes can do that, and if Wang can come back with some semblance of his former ability, that will create a groundswell of support for moving Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen. Believers in that move have been buoyed by Chamberlain's lack of dominant stuff in his first three starts. Although he hasn't been awful, he hasn't been the special pitcher the Yankees believed he'd be and the Yankee bullpen hasn't left anyone feeling particularly comfortable about the late innings.

    Finally, Hughes represents youth, something that the Yankees are woefully short on right now. The injuries are a clear sign of that, but so was the end of Monday's loss when Jorge Posada bounced into a double play because he runs like he's carrying two pianos and a pipe organ on his back. Hughes can't help Posada run like a reasonably athletic human being, but the Yankees are really lacking the kind of depth they have in Boston and Tampa. The Red Sox beat the Yankees on Sunday with young bonus players who filled in holes, and the Rays will call up David Price any day now, which leaves the Yankees and their creaky bones at a major disadvantage.

    So that's all that Hughes is dealing with on Tuesday night. Welcome back to the Show, Phil!

    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.