Hughes seems to be edging out Joba

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While some folks tell us not to care about such things, the fact remains that there is a fifth starter’s race in the Bronx, so we may as well pass along the developments that transpire therein.

Joba pitched in that intra-squad game yesterday giving up two runs on six hits in five innings against mostly backups and AAA talent. Hughes pitched against a Phillies lineup consisting of many starters, but Hughes did pitch late in the game and there had been many substitutions by then. His line score looked superficially bad — four runs on five hits in 4.1 innings with three homers — but (a) people who were at the game are saying that the wind was blowing out strong; (b) Hughes struck out six; and (c) Joe Girardi said that Hughes had his best stuff all spring.  Which matters more than a random line score in the Grapefruit League.

Girardi says that he’s going to make his decision by Thursday. Most people are assuming at this point that it will be Hughes, partially because he threw well yesterday, partially because they view Joba’s appearance in a split squad game as some kind of exile and partially because people are still in love with 2007 Joba Chamberlain and the bullpen and all of that. And it may very well be Hughes. Usually when the tabloid guys pull something out of their posterior someone will contradict it in short order, but thus far no one has contradicted the “it’s Hughes” conventional wisdom.

Which is fine, at least as long as it doesn’t mean that the Yankees are going to forever consign Chamberlain to the pen. Working him in to the rotation a bit this season to give tired arms a rest and planing on him moving in to replace Pettitte or Vazquez next year makes a lot more sense than ending his career as a starter at age 24.

Especially considering that he really hasn’t done anything to lose his spot as a starter as much as Hughes has done to win a spot as one. If that makes any sense.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.