Thursday, April 26, 2007

Phil’r Up

Is he ready? Are the Yanks summoning the kid too soon? Is it a one-start cameo or is he here to stay? Will he be on a pitch count? Surrounded by more questions than answers, Yankee “prospect” Philip Hughes makes his debut tonight at the Stadium.

Hughes has all the talent in the world, and has quickly gone from the Yankees top pitching prospect to the best prospect in all of baseball, but he is not the 2007 Yankee Savior. Rookie pitchers rarely have a major impact on pennant contending teams, especially one as desperate for pitching help as the 2007 Yankees.

Throw into the equation that phenom pitching debuts rarely last more than 5 or 6 innings, and obviously one start is not an indicator of career potential, and my conclusion, or better yet my plea is to not expect too much from Hughes, tonight or this year.

Chien-Ming Wang, a much less-heralded prospect debuted in late April 2005 with seven solid innings of two-run ball against the same Blue Jays Hughes takes the mound against. Before that, the last Yankee pitching prospect to forge a successful career, Andy Pettitte, made five relief appearances before his first career start against Kansas City, a 5.1 inning effort giving up one earned run and striking out three, and taking the loss.

Hughes has drawn comparisons to Roger Clemens. The Rocket gave up 11 hits and four earned runs in 5.2 innings against Cleveland back in 1984. A far cry from his hall of fame career. Fast forward to 1998, after a much-heralded, unmemorable debut and first few starts, Kerry Wood strikes out 20 five games into his career. At that point would anyone have predicted that Russ Ortiz would have the most wins of any rookie pitchers from that season, or that Roy Halladay would be the best pitcher from that crop. Hallday himself, after twirling a one-hitter in his second career start, took four more years to reach double digit wins and elite status.

The bottom line, tonight will not make or break Hughes, and I hope the Yanks and their fans are not thinking he is coming up here and will win 20 this year. Patience please. Enjoy the talent, the moment, but come back in five years to make a judgment.


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