Minnesota Twins: Hughes takes reigns as leader

Minnesota Twins

Phil Hughes

Near the beginning of the season, it had looked like the Minnesota Twins’ leading starting pitcher was going to be Kyle Gibson. Now, with one week left in the second month of regular season play, it looks like the reigns have been taken over by Phil Hughes.

A few weeks ago, I had said that Gibson was on the path to becoming the next Johan Santana for the Twins pitching staff. He was at a perfect 3-0 record with a 0.93 ERA and had only allowed two earned runs in 19.1 innings of work.

Now, Gibson has fallen to a 4-4 record, a 4.68 ERA, and has given up 24 earned runs in his last 30.2 innings of work, which includes three home runs. His first loss on the season came against the Tampa Bay Rays, upon which he was taken out prior to the fourth inning after giving up seven earned runs on 10 hits. In his third loss of the season against the Detroit Tigers, Gibson was quickly taken out of the game after just the second inning, a game in which he gave up six earned runs on seven hits and struck out only one batter.

Granted, Gibson’s numbers are still better than where they were last year. In the 10 games he started for the Twins, Gibson pitched 51 innings with a 6.53 ERA and gave up 37 earned runs, seven of those coming off of home runs. However, these numbers do not mask the fact that Gibson’s performance has dramatically slumped since his spectacular start at the beginning of the season.

Since his decline, the torch has been passed to Phil Hughes, who has stepped up since then and is now a solid leader in the starting rotation.

Last year, Hughes had gone 4-14 on the season while pitching for the New York Yankees and finished with a 5.19 ERA. In 29 starts, Hughes had given up 24 home runs and struck out 121 batters.

Around the beginning of this season, Hughes did not stick out in any way. In his first three starts, Hughes went 0-1 and accumulated a 7.20 ERA. In those three games, Hughes pitched a total of 15 innings and gave up 12 earned runs on 20 hits.

In his six starts since then, Hughes has turned his pitching statistics around and is now 5-1 on the season with a 3.15 ERA, a record that already surpasses the win column from last year. In that time, Hughes has gone 39.1 innings and has given up just seven earned runs on 39 hits.

In those nine starts, Hughes has only given up four home runs and has already struck out 47 batters.

Currently, Hughes is the only starting pitcher who has a winning record and also holds the best ERA in the rotation. Before landing on the disabled list, Mike Pelfrey went 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA. Since being called up to replace Pelfrey in the rotation, Samuel Deduno is 1-2 with a 3.53 ERA. Kevin Correia has a 2-5 record with a 6.52 ERA, while Ricky Nolasco is 2-4 and sitting at a 5.50 ERA.

Hopefully Hughes’ recent success on the mound is no fluke by any means. Looking at the rest of the rotation, the Twins need all the help they can get from the man in the middle of the diamond. As long as Hughes stays in this newfound groove of his that is winning games for the team, then I for one don’t think fans will see many more losses (if any at all) coming out of this 27-year-old veteran.

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