Coming into the season, the New York Yankees‘ biggest weakness was their starting rotation. With no fourth or fifth starter and an inconsistent AJ Burnett pitching third, the Yankees were expecting big seasons from CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes.

Sabathia has answered the call. Despite not winning a game, he has already pitched a gem against Minnesota and thrown a good start in the opener against Detroit.

However, Phil Hughes has not looked anything like the All-Star pitcher we saw in the first half of last year. 

After getting lit up against Detroit, going four innings and giving up five runs, Hughes was shellacked by a struggling Boston lineup, lasting only two innings and conceding six runs.

After two starts, Hughes is 0-1 with a 16.50 ERA. Hardly what the Yankees were expecting from their young stud and future ace.

The problem with Hughes is exactly the one Javier Vasquez had last year: Namely, his velocity has fallen way off.

For Yankees fans, having the same issues as Javy Vasquez means immediately pressing the panic button.  

While pitching coach Larry Rothschild is confident Hughes’ arm strength will return naturally and manager Joe Giradi has already gone on record stating that he will not be skipped in the rotation, perhaps a trip to the bullpen would benefit Hughes. 

He starred in the bullpen during the Yankees’ World Series run two years ago and would be able to come out for an inning or two every second day and test out his arm strength, instead of waiting every five days.

Pitching out of the bullpen means Hughes can examine whether the loss in velocity is a mechanical issue. And if it is, bullpen innings would be a great way to fix the problem.  

Working in the bullpen would also give him some much-needed confidence. Hughes, who said after the loss to the Red Sox that he felt “helpless,” may be going through the same confidence issues that have plagued AJ Burnett over the years.

As catcher Russell Martin explained, the difference between a 89 MPH pitch and a 93 MPH pitch may not be much for the hitter, but as a pitcher you lose confidence in your pitches and feel like you can’t get away with things. 

With Ivan Nova eager to step up and AJ Burnett off to a good start, the Yankees have a little leeway in moving Hughes around.

As the biggest issue in the rotation and perhaps the team, fixing Hughes is extremely important. While moving Hughes to the bullpen may create short-term problems, like further weakening an already weak rotation, if Hughes can identify what is wrong with his arm the long-term benefits would be tremendous.

As a team with World Series aspirations, the Yankees should be thinking long-term, and getting Hughes back to 100 percent is the top priority.  

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