Yankees prepping Phil Hughes for bullpen role in playoffs

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Phil Hughes hasn’t pitched since September 12 because of back problems and now that he’s healthy enough to potentially see some game action again the Yankees are preparing him for a bullpen role.

“That is what we are going to look at during the playoffs,” manager Joe Girardi told Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, noting that Hughes will be available out of the bullpen for the final series of the regular season versus the Rays.

Hughes has pitched poorly for most of the season and doesn’t have enough time left to build back his arm strength for lengthy outings, but his track record as a reliever is extremely strong. He spent nearly all of 2009 in the bullpen and has made 47 of his 118 career appearances as a reliever, throwing 54 innings with a 1.51 ERA and 68/14 K/BB ratio.

New York’s rotation is a big question mark, but Hughes joining David Robertson and Rafael Soriano in setting up Mariano Rivera could make the bullpen a major strength.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves