If today was a referendum on who would stay in the Yankees' rotation and who would go, consider Phil Hughes a stayer. The 25-year-old righty, who had been mostly awful in his first five starts this season, was better than good and mostly terrific today, working into the seventh inning to earn his second win of the year in the Yankees' 10-4 victory over the Royals.
With the return of Andy Pettitte looming, Joe Girardi had pretty much thrown it down to Hughes, challenging him before the game to put up or shut up in his battle to remain in the rotation.
"If you don’t want someone to take your job go out and pitch lights out, that’s the bottom line,'' Girardi had said. "Things can paralyze you or they can motivate you, as a human. Bottom line is you got to produce.''
So Hughes went out and produced, mixing an effective changeup, a sharper curveball than he has been showing, and a fastball that touched 96 mph as late as the 115th and final pitch of the day, which happened to be hit out of the park by Humberto Quintero.
But no matter. By then, the Yankees had staked Hughes to a 7-2 lead. "That was huge,'' Hughes said. "It was great to be able to go out there and throw strikes and not worry about things.''
Girardi said he was impressed by the command Hughes had on all his pitches, although he was typically vague when asked if this meant Hughes would stay in the rotation.
"I mean, our plan is, the guys are on turn,'' Girardi said. "That's the bottom line. So I’ll continue to put out the rotation as we go forward but he pitched a great game today.''
"It's a process,'' said Hughes, who seems to be getting used to never quite getting an unconditional vote of confidence from his manager. "If I continue to pitch well, I'm sure I'll gain more trust.''
Hughes pitched well today. Did he pitch well enough to gain your trust?