After watching Phil Hughes post a 13.94 ERA while showing significantly decreased velocity through three starts the Yankees have removed him from the rotation and placed him on the disabled list with what Joe Girardi called “dead arm.”
That sounds bad, but it’s basically another way of saying “fatigue” or “he’s not throwing as hard, but there’s no obvious injury that we can find.” He’ll be replaced in the rotation with Bartolo Colon, who has impressed as a reliever after making the team as a non-roster spring training invitee at age 38.
Hughes’ average fastball clocked in at 92.6 miles per hour last season as he went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in a career-high 176 innings, but this year his fastball is down to 89.3 mph and opponents have knocked him around for a .396 batting average and 1.121 OPS.
No one seems quite sure what to make of Hughes’ struggles, including Hughes, so rather than simply skip a turn in the rotation or relegate him to mop-up duties in the bullpen the Yankees have decided to shut him down for at least a couple weeks and presumably give him a lengthy minor-league rehab assignment once he’s deemed ready for game action again.
Meanwhile, this completes a pretty remarkable comeback for Colon, who last started a big-league game for the White Sox on July 27, 2009. At that time he was averaging just 89.1 mph with his fastball, but Colon has upped his velocity to 91.2 mph as a reliever while posting a 13/3 K/BB ratio in 11 innings.
If he wasn’t 44 years-old we’d just call it a slump, but the way Bartolo Colon is pitching right now makes you wonder if the end is nigh.
Colon was shelled this afternoon, giving up seven runs on ten hits and walking three in five innings of work to take the loss against the Pirates. That brings his ERA up to 6.96 on the year. He’s allowed five or more runs in five of his ten starts and opposing batters are hitting .320 against him. One of the big reasons he had been so effective into his 40s had been his low walk rate — he led the NL in this category for the past two seasons — but he’s walking more guys this year than last.
The Braves picked up Colon for the reasons a lot of rebuilding teams pick up veteran starters: to provide innings and stability until the younger arms of the future can mature. Colon, however, has been the weakest link of the Braves rotation.
At some point, every baseball player reaches the end. Almost all of them do it before the age of 44. One hopes, given his history and popularity that Colon is just experiencing a rough patch and that, by mid season, he’ll be reliably pumping strikes into the zone the way he has the past few seasons. But with each bad start he registers this year, that’s seeming like more and more of a stretch.
Last night Braves reliever Josh Collmenter surrendered three homers and seven runs in the 10th inning of a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came into the game when it was tied 5-5 so, yeah, ouch. Today Collmenter is on his way to no longer being a Braves reliever as he has been designated for assignment.
Collmenter made 11 appearances for the Braves, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 17 innings. If he doesn’t latch on someplace else he can take heart that his final act in the big leagues was striking out former MVP Andrew McCutchen. If only he hadn’t surrendered consecutive homers to David Freese, Jose Osuna and Jordy Mercer just before that. Oh well. Take the good with the bad.
Right-hander Matt Wisler, who has been no great shakes in the bigs himself, was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett before today’s series finale against the Pirates. He’s currently throwing mopup duty for Bartolo Colon, who got shelled for seven runs in four innings.
Given how Colon is going, maybe the Braves will be thinking about some more transactions soon.