Given the choice, who would you rather have as a spot starter and long reliever: Kei Igawa, Brett Tomko, Dan Giese, Alfredo Aceves or Phil Hughes? The Yankees had decided that the first four are still in the running and Phil Hughes was sent to the minors? Say what?
Igawa is having a great spring and has thrown eleven scoreless innings. Got it. But can we so easily forget that the Japanese import that Brian Cashman admits was a mistake has pitched 71+ innings for the Yankees over the past two years and has given up 53 earned runs and fifteen homers?
Aceves fared better for the Yankees last year in six appearances. He showed poise and the ability to change speeds and keep batters off balance. But he does not have dominant stuff and is a bit of a junk-baller. He is useful but not scary.
Brett Tomko is also having a great spring. But the guy is 35 years old with a checkered career. He has pitched with a league average or better ERA in seven of his twelve years. But it's been a while since he had one of those years and even when he was accomplishing those, he was inconsistent and had a quality of not getting quality starts. His inning pitched per start are really low historically.
Dan Giese may be a nice guy, but he shouldn't be in this conversation. He is a career minor leaguer who didn't break into the major leagues until he was thirty years old. Now thirty-two, he is a fringe player at best. He has guts and little fear, but he isn't the answer.
There are probably ten or fifteen teams that would take Phil Hughes in a heartbeat. Hughes is twenty-two years old and has been one of the Yankees' best prospects. He came up in 2007 and was lights out and was heading for a no-hitter when his hamstring popped. That ended his effectiveness for that year. He came into a no win situation last year when the Yankees did not get Johan Santana and was expected to produce those kinds of numbers instead.
An injury and some loss of confidence occurred and 2008 became a nightmare for young Hughes and it was a lost season. But there were raves about him in the winter leagues and he came into Spring Training strong and looked great for the Yanks. He pitched twelve innings this spring and only gave up five hits and three runs.
The problem for Hughes is that Cashman's strategy backfired last year because Hughes and Ian Kennedy could not perform as expected. So the Yankees switched gears and brought in Sabathia and Burnett to go with Wang and Pettitte. Joba Chamberlain was given the fifth spot by default (and by talent) leaving Hughes as the odd man out.
A lot can happen in a season and maybe Hughes will get a shot some time during the year. If not, it is a waste of a great talent and it is too bad. He is a fan favorite and should get a legitimate shot to pitch in the big leagues. It is predicted here in the FanDome that Hughes will be a quality pitcher long after people remember A. J. Burnett. It just may not be with the Yankees.