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.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.