Hughes Struggles In Double-A Debut

After dominating the Florida State League, Yankees No. 1 prospect Philip Hughes made his debut Thursday with Double-A Trenton, and the results were less than glowing.

But that doesn’t mean the 19-year-old righthander didn’t come away from his first Double-A outing without learning some valuable lessons about facing tougher competition, and perhaps more importantly, himself.

Hughes, who went 2-3, 1.80 with a 30-2 strikeout-walk ratio at high Class A Tampa before being promoted last weekend, allowed four earned runs on seven hits over six innings in a 5-3 loss to Reading.

“Well, it’s been better,” Hughes said. “I was just having trouble getting ahead of hitters throughout the game. It was one of those things–my velocity was good, my stuff was good, but my command of my pitches obviously wasn’t so good.”

The first-rounder in 2004 (23rd overall) walked two and struck out three. His fastball ranged in the 90-93 mph range, topping out at 94 several times. While the velocity was there, Hughes found himself working from behind in the count consistently all night, a far cry from his days in the FSL.

“I give the hitters credit for what they did’"I made them more patient because I didn’™t have good control of my pitches,” Hughes said. “And I didn’™t help myself out much at all. It seemed like I was forcing myself into situations to get out of the majority of the time.”

Trouble came early. Hughes gave up an infield single to leadoff hitter Michael Bourn to start the game. That more or less set the tone, as Bourn, who is among the Eastern League leaders in stolen bases, promptly stole second base (his 12th of the year) and later scored from third base on a wild pitch by Hughes.

But the real damage came in the fifth, when Reading second baseman Tim Moss led off the inning with a triple. Hughes then walked Bourn. Moss came home on a groundout, and Bourn later scored on a single by Jim Rushford to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead.

“I just didn’t help myself out or work out of jams like I normally would,” Hughes said. “I gave in (to hitters) at times, I think. I’m not trying to make excuses, but I just didn’t throw the ball like I know I’m capable of doing. I didn’t do my job, and that’s the bottom line.

“I thought my changeup was good and that might have been my best pitch in terms of my confidence in it and commanding it. My curveball was OK–there were some good ones and there were some bad ones. I had a little trouble finding my release point and that’s just one of those things I need to be more consistent with. It was a little different atmosphere (than in the Florida State League)–I guess I had more of a comfort level there. But that’s what this is all about–moving up to the next level and rising to the challenge. I just didn”t do that tonight and hopefully that will get better as we move along.”