Hughes struggles, but don’t be too concerned

Phil Hughes made his much-awaited (if you’re a Yankees fan) return from the DL on Wednesday. He had been on the shelf with a dead arm since April 15.

His line was certainly not anything to get too excited over: In five innings, Hughes allowed two runs on six hits while issuing four free passes (two walks and two hit batsmen). Also, he struck out only two.

The good news (or somewhat good news) was that Hughes’ velocity was way up from where it was in April. Howver, it was still a bit down from his 2010 levels. To put this is context, here is Hughes’ velocity during regular-season games since the beginning of 2010:

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Noting that there are slight velocity discrepancies from park to park, Hughes’ three-start stretch in April still stands as a clear outlier. He averaged 91.7 mph with his fastball Wednesday, about one mph down from his 2010 norm, but significantly up from the beginning of the year. Something else to keep an eye on is that he lost some velocity as the game went on, though he threw some 92s in his final at-bat:

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Also. for the second straight start, Hughes completely ignored the slider, which was added this March as a slower alternative to his cutter. (He used it in his first two starts of the season and has shelved it since then). Speaking of the cutter, Hughes looked like he was mostly aiming outside to righties and inside to lefties, leaving plenty up and in the middle of the plate:

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As you can see, he also went for two back-door cutters, getting one for a called strike three; the one furthest off the plate was actually the one called.

We’re going to need to see some more from Hughes before making a judgment on his effectiveness this year, but we should think of his return to the majors as something of a success, given that he has seemed to recover a lot of the arm strength that was missing at the beginning of the year.

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