I want to begin by saying that I am one of the biggest supporters of Phil Hughes, and have been preaching patience with him since spring training. I still do. I still think we need to be patient with Hughes. But I don't believe we need to be patient with him on the big league roster.
I want to be clear. Phil Hughes has the make up to become an elite pitcher in the future, but his growth has been stunted by being forced to mature too quickly. What I saw yesterday, and what I've seen all season, is a young pitcher with good stuff, but a lack of repetoire. His fastball and curve are major league ready, but that's only two pitches. He has not shown the ability to locate his changeup, and his slider, which is a new pitch for him, is not big league ready. What I saw yesterday, what I've seen all season, is a gifted pitcher weaving his way through major league lineups with 2 pitches. Its not his fault.
Last season, Brian Cashman made it very clear. Phil Hughes was to stay in triple A for the 2007 season. He needed to grow, develop his pitches, and face the competition there before he would move to the big leagues. However, he made just 5 starts at that level before injuries made it necessary to call him up. He was shaky in his first outing, but carried a no-hitter into the 7th against Texas in his second outing, before a hamstring injury pulled him from the game. After a long rehab, he came back, and pitched decently. His big performance was his relief of Roger Clemens in game 3 of the ALCS, where he was amazing. I understand why they called him up, and agree with it. He was tearing it up in triple A. But it didn't mean that he was ready.
What we are seeing now is a pitcher who has little confidence in his secondary pitches, because frankly, they're not very good. He's still working on his slider and changeup. Its not fair to ask him to toy with new pitches on the biggest stage. If you ask me, the whole point of the minors is to work on and develop your pitches. Because he was called up so early, he never had the chance to develop his pitches. He knows how to throw them, but not at a big league level. Right now, the best thing for him is to go back to triple A, and work on those pitches. He has enough natural talent to pitch well, and if he stays with the big league club I can guarantee that he'll have his moments. But the rough starts will far out weigh the good ones. The teams know him now. They know his fastball, and they know his curveball. They've scouted him thoroughly, and they know how to hit him. He's had one quality start all season. He pitched 6 innings of 2 run ball against Toronto. Since then, he has struggled to even qualify for a start. He should be taking these lumps in Scranton, not in the New York.
If they send Hughes down, I'm sure he'll be devastated. But its the best thing for him right now. It shouldn't be deemed a failure by any means. Sometimes you need to retreat before you can advance. I know people love this kid, and will argue to the death that he belongs on the big league club, but if you really want to see this kid become the elite pitcher he will be, then you need to let him go.