New York Yankees right-handed Phil Hughes will sit out at least the next two weeks thanks to a bulging disk in his back. While there appears to be reason for concern, the extent of the injury and how it will affect Hughes’ availability for the regular season start remains unknown.
Hughes, 26, has failed to develop into the top of the rotation starter that some envisioned as he was climbing his way up the Yankees minor league system. He has, however, developed into one of the better mid-rotation options in the game and his loss would be significant for the Yankees. He’s 52-36 in his career, in 152 appearances including 103 starts. Over 635.0 IP he’s posted a 4.39 ERA, 1.291 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, and 7.6 K/9.
In 2012 he went 16-13, with a 4.23 ERA and 1.265 WHIP over 191.1 innings of work. It was the first time he’s made 32 starts in his six year career.
New York heads into the season with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte locks for the starting rotation. If Hughes in unable to pitch, Ivan Nova and David Phelps will likely both make the team in the final two spots instead of competing for just one opening. Adam Warren will provide some depth, but the organization has few options beyond him until Michael Pineda returns healthy from shoulder surgery (hopefully by June). Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests that the team has started to look for a “veteran option that could start at Triple-A” and will even evaluate Chien-Ming Wang when the free agent pitches in the World Baseball Classic in the coming weeks. Wang, or a player like him, might prove to be a worthwhile addition for a Yankee team expecting to rely on pitching to remain competitive in what expects to be an awfully tough AL East.
2013 was looking to be a big season for Hughes, as he’ll reach free agency for the first time in his career at year’s end. New York is hoping he can help solidify their rotation and Hughes is hoping to perform well enough to justify the team giving him a new contract. With a strong season he could be in line for a deal on the open market above the four years and $52 Million that Edwin Jackson received but less than the six years and $90 Million that Anibal Sanchez got to return to Detroit.