Is Phil Hughes The New Joba?

There was electricity when Joba used to trot in from the bullpen.


With his 98 mph fastballs and ability to strike hitters out seemingly at will, he was so exciting he made my hair stand on end.
Now he’s a starter and going through a rough patch, and Phil Hughes is pitching out of the pen and having a spectacular season. When a game moves into the late innings with the Yankees in the lead, I find myself yelling out, “Bring in Hughes!” Call me fickle, but I’m getting the same thrill from the new guy as I used to get from the old guy.
Hughes figured prominently in Friday night’s 5-3 Yankees win over the Tigers. AJ started the game after the long layoff for the All-Star break, and judging by his wildness he was overly pumped. His stuff was nasty but all over the place. He walked five and hit a batter over six innings, and he looked frustrated.
It was thanks to a great shoestring catch by Melky in the sixth that AJ only gave up three runs. Then came the seventh and Girardi called on Hughes, who threw nothing but gas.
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He struck out Granderson, Polanco and Thomas. And then he was back for the eighth and K-ed Inge, Laird and Santiago. Impressive? Let’s just say his performance was enough to make me wish I could take Jorge’s place and give him a few words of encouragement myself.
I was so into his outing that I let dinner burn. My husband was not amused.
Mo got his 506th save after the long rain delay in the Bronx. Truthfully, this was a game I didn’t expect the Yankees to win. They were facing a young lefty they’d never seen before – always trouble. And their offense seemed flat, only managing a couple of runs through five innings. Even with the Tigers playing sloppy defense, they couldn’t take advantage…. until Zumaya appeared in the seventh. Oh, happy day.
With the Yankees down 3-2, Jeter led off with a single. Damon followed with a double. And Tex?
I think the ball is still traveling as I write this.
And so a game that was looking grim in the early going turned into a nice win to open the series against the Tigers. The Yankees are supposed to beat first-place clubs if they intend to make the playoffs. Tonight was a step in that direction.
During the game, I heard the sad news about Walter Cronkite’s death and spent the rain delay watching CNN. They had interviews with those who’d worked with Cronkite, as well as clips of his most famous moments in the anchor chair. I grew up watching him. (Yes, I’m that old.) He was the authority figure who told us kids what was happening in the world. When he went on live TV on November 22nd, 1963, and choked up while announcing that JFK had been assassinated, I realized he was also a human being. What a legend.
Farewell, Uncle Walter.


  1. ibleedpinstripes

    Hey Jane! I’m new in the MLBlogosphere so forgive my novice-like feedback.

    Hughes was definitely huge tonight. All 6 outs he made were strikeouts. If he is the “new Joba” hopefully Girardi will be smart enough to keep him in the bullpen seeing as how Joba’s career as a starter is less than stellar so far. And Lord knows the bullpen needs stability. Hopefully using him straight from the ‘pen for a while will keep things flowing smoothly.

    – Lisa

  2. juliasrants

    Jane – I don’t think Hughes needs encouragement.

    Walter Cronkite will be missed. While I did not see his broadcast of announcing Kennedy’s death live, I have seen the video and he allowed us to see journalism at its best. Much like the NY reporters who were reporting live during the 9-11 attacks, there is a time when you want to know that the person reporting the story feels like you do. Mr. Cronkite knew how to make that connection. He will be sorely missed. He had a very intimate connection to the Islands here in Massachusetts and I know they will be grieving – not at the lose of a newsman, but at the lose of a dear friend.


  3. Jane Heller

    Hey, Lisa. Welcome. Nothing novice-like about your feedback. It’s great. I agree that keeping Hughes in the pen is the smart move. Why mess with a good thing?

    Julia, you don’t think Hughes needs encouragement? Because?

    AJ did grind that one out, Letsgoyankees. He wasn’t sharp, but he kept the game under control so the offense could get back in it.

    Hughes has found his confidence and his velocity in the pen, devilabrit, but the Yankees still plan to put him in the rotation next season. We’ll see whether they stick to that plan.


    Hummm I was thinking about the Hughes the next Joba thing. To be honest Hughes reminds me of MO back in 1996 setting up for Wettland. Could Phil be the next Mo? I don’t think he would mind the comparison. I also think he loves the bull-pen and the fact that his fastball hits 97mph out of the pen has gotta feel good too. He wont be available today but Ace is. I think we need one more reliever. As a matter of fact I mentioned that on sorry about the shameless plug Jane. LOL

  5. Jane Heller

    I don’t know if Hughes loves the bullpen as much as he loves contributing to the team’s success, mike (is that you?). I think they still see him as a starter, but then plans change. Having a Mo-Wetteland combo is something I’d love. The question is….will it be Hughes-Mo or Joba-Mo? I agree with Girardi about Ace. I like him just where he is.

  6. peggy3

    Agreed …Phil should stay in the bullpen for the rest of the season but I still think he should be a starter in the future.
    He has a quiet confidence and a willingness to listen & learn from his peers…something that seems to be lacking in Joba this season especially the confidence part. I think Phil’s confidence level is on the rise by this stint in the bullpen. Joba burst on to the scene like an explosion…too much fame too soon but I think once he sorts it all out he will be fine too. Both have the tools to become at least a #2 if not an Ace. Most starters don’t realize their full potential till 25 or older. A top end starter is a lot harder to come by then a reliable set up man. We (the fans) need patience. Patience is a virtue …sadly a quality most Yankee fans seem to lack. Of course in the end it doesn’t matter what I or anyone thinks ..only what the Yankees do ..

    Rest in Peace Mr. Cronkite …”and that’s the way it was…”

    Go Yankees 2009 !!!

  7. Yankees Reality Check

    I’ve gone back and forth about this Hughes/Joba thing. I’m now leaning more toward Joba back to the pen. I never used to think that. But I think the intangible here is mental make-up. It doesn’t seem like Joba is comfortable as a starter. Phil seems comfortable in both roles (although he needs a bit of work still as a starter). At this point, I think I’d be much more confident seeing him as a starter next year and Joba in the set-up role.

    PS: I hate the way everyone is abandoning the Joba bandwagon as quickly as they jumped on it in 2007. I still want him to be a Yankee for a long, long time.

  8. Jane Heller

    Hi, Peggy. On the Hughes-Joba/starter-reliever question, the truth is I just want what’s best for the team. If they think both should be starters, fine with me. But as we saw last night, the 8th inning spot is very important. A good set up guy shortens the game. I don’t feel that kind of confidence in Bruney, certainly not this season. Btw, I’m surprised you’re not at the game today!

  9. Jane Heller

    Isn’t it interesting how we thought the Joba starter/reliever debate was over, YRC, and now we’re all having the same one about Hughes. I’ve learned a lot about young pitchers and their development from watching those two over the past two years – particularly how they seem to have swapped roles. I think the chorus of Joba doubters is just about frustration. We all had such high expectations for him.

  10. peggy3

    Hey Jane …

    Agreed on Bruney…that’s why it’s important to keep Phil in the BP this season but I think he has much more importance as a starter down the road. You can make a mediocre starter a great setup man ….perfect example …Mo. Confidence in your ability is the most important factor in the pen with one or two great pitches. You just need to get six outs at the most so you can just let it fly …as they say. I’m definitely with you on wanting what’s best for the team and no one really knows best than the people who are truly involved so I’ll leave it up to them to decide.. :o).

    I’ll be at the game tomorrow …Old Timer’s Day. I was going to go last night but I’m happy I decided not to since there was ANOTHER rain delay. I have three games to make up already this season. Thankfully they did get the game in and we WON with that big hit by Tex !!!! I’m really loving Tex …his play and his personality. He always has that big smile on his face which let’s you know he really loves playing this game and I really think he loves being a Yankee too.

    Nice start to the 2nd half …let’s keep it going …

    Go Yankees 2009 !!!

  11. Erin Kathleen

    So, not only did you guys beat the Tigers, you wrecked Joel Zumaya in the process. Good work! Walter Cronkite was a little before my time (I grew up with Dan Rather and Peter Jennings), but he set a standard in journalistic excellence that seems to be lacking in some of the cable news anchors today. He will definitely be missed.-Erin

  12. redstatebluestate

    RIP, Walter. You’re right about one thing, Jane… Yankees fans are fickle… almost as fickle as Red Sox fans. Today’s Hughes is yesterday’s Joba and the truth is, unless your name is Jeter, Yankees fans will hate on you just as much as they love on you.


    Very exciting game last night…sorry to hear about dinner, Jane; hope you didn’t wreck breakfast with the start of today’s game. To make you laugh, my husband and I went out to breakfast and about half way through our meal my husband asked the waitress for a glass of water. She smiled and asked “Regular or Diet?” — I appreciate that kind of personality in the service industry. But I did almost choke on my coffee.

    I was very fearful that the weather was going to shut us down before we were able to gain the lead but the guys hung tough and did what they had to do. I remember Andy Pettitte once saying that if a starting pitcher gives up 3 runs or less that he has done his job and its up to the offense to get the win. In that, A.J. did what he needed, although he was clearly out of control for much of the game.

    We’re going to Old Timers’ Day tomorrow. I’m going to wear my Bobby Mercer t-shirt in his honor. Miss him much!

  14. Jane Heller

    Maybe, Johnny, but they keep saying they want Hughes in the rotation next year.

    So glad you’ll be at OTD tomorrow, Peggy. I’m envious! You’ll get to see Mooooose, among others. I love Tex too. He went 0-for-4 today, but he was the first one out to congratulate A-Rod on the homer.

    I hope you get to see a win tonight, Kaybee. Always more fun than the alternative.

    You owe me, Erin. We not only knocked out Zumaya but we beat the Tigers again today.

    We are fickle, Jeff, although I can honestly say I never loved Farnsworth and then stopped loving him. 🙂

    Funny story about the waitress, Diane. Never heard that one before! Have a great time at OTD tomorrow (maybe you should meet up with Peggy) and report in after the game.

  15. PAUL

    I barely remember Cronkite at the anchor desk, if I remember at all. There’ll never be another newsman as influential because no one under 75 watches the evening newscasts anymore. If you don’t believe me, just watch any one of the three network broadcasts and judge by the ads that are shown. They’re all for: A) medications for all sorts of age-related maladies; B) sex drugs; C) denture creams; or D) adult diapers.
    (For the record, I need none of these things.)
    Zumaya’s hurt again. What a shock.

  16. Jane Heller

    Sorry you missed Cronkite at the anchor desk, Paul. He delivered the news with accuracy and objectivity.

  17. thatbaseballguy

    His performance from the ‘pen has been… may I say it… STELLAR! I think he will become the new Joba and will help the road to Rivera go more quickly and easier. Plus Aceves and an improving Coke, it may become a very good bullpen.

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