Without much fanfare, Phil Hughes has put together a great season in his first season with the Twins after leaving the Yankees. Hughes allowed five runs in five innings to the White Sox on Sunday afternoon, really only his second poor start out of his last 12 outings.
Hughes entered the start without having issued a walk since the fourth inning of his June 1 start against the Yankees. The walkless streak was snapped in the third inning, when he issued a free pass to White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes, the streak spanned 106 batters. What’s incredible is that it isn’t even Hughes’ longest walkless streak this season. Between the second inning of his April 20 start against the Royals and that June 1 start, Hughes went through 178 batters between walks.
On the season, Hughes is 8-3 with a 3.40 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and an 82/9 K/BB ratio in 95 1/3 innings. His 2.3 percent walk rate is the lowest among 95 qualified starting pitchers in the major leagues, according to FanGraphs. The Twins signed him to a three-year, $24 million contract back in December. They have certainly gotten what they wanted from him so far.
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.