Change of plans? Yankees to activate Phil Hughes, start him Saturday

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Phil Hughes was scheduled to make a rehab start Saturday after opening the season on the disabled list with a bulging disc in his back, but the Yankees announced after Friday’s game that he’ll be activated to start against the Tigers instead.

David Phelps will return to the pen to make room for Hughes in the rotation. Adam Warren presumably will be sent down.

It’s reasonable to suspect that this was the Yankees’ plan all along, and that they just stashed Hughes on the DL so that they could carry an extra reliever in the first four games of the season (players who start the season on the DL only have to stay there for five days, assuming they didn’t take part in any games the last 10 days of the spring).

Still, if that’s the case, the Yankees did cover their tracks really well. According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News’, Hughes’ bags were already checked in for a flight to Newark when he got the word he was going to Detroit instead.

Hughes never got into a Grapefruit League game this spring after being diagnosed with the bulging disc in February. He went 16-13 with a 4.19 ERA for the Yankees last year.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: