Phil Hughes looks for answers as he struggles with his velocity

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As I noted in ATH this morning, people were talking during yesterday’s Yankees-Tigers game that Phil Hughes’ velocity was way down. The last time this was mentioned, during spring training, some dismissed the idea as a function of uncalibrated Juggs guns or, even if the observations were accurate, as something not worth worrying about.  It now seems that, yes, the reports were accurate, and yes, it is a cause for concern.

Hughes’ fastball averaged 89.25 m.p.h. according to PitchFX. That’s which is down from the 92-94 m.p.h. fastball he was featuring at the height of his effectiveness last season.  Both Hughes — who called his velocity issue “disconcerting” — and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild were concerned about it after the game according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.

Obviously one regular season start does not justify panic in the streets and looting of local businesses, but given how the Yankees’ rotation was characterized as “Sabathia and Hughes are good, everything else is a question mark,” this is something worth watching.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.