As the Minnesota Twins continue to struggle defensively on the mound, and very recently in the field, there’s not much to look for through the grapevine. The pitching staff is 32-35. Only six of the overall 16-man roster has winning records, and three have ERA’s lower than .300 (Matt Guerrier at 2.81, Glen Perkins at 2.76 and Casey Fien at 2.17).
However, there have been a few among the roster that have stepped up to the plate and surprised some people. One of them is starting pitcher Phil Hughes.
Hughes is the only one of two starting pitchers who has a winning record, as he currently sits at 7-2 on the season.
Hughes made his Major League debut in April 2007 for the New York Yankees when a few starters succumbed to injury. A month later, Hughes pulled his hamstring and was put on the disabled list, and did not return until August in a game against the Kansas City Royals.
Before the start of the 2008 season, Hughes was almost traded to the Twins for pitcher Johan Santana. Rather, Santana went to the New York Mets and Hughes stayed with the Yankees.
In his first six starts, Hughes went 0-4 and posted a 9.00 ERA. Hughes was then sent to the disabled list again due to a strained oblique and a cracked rib. After spending some time with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barr team, Hughes was recalled to the Yankees in September, where he finished out the season with the 0-4 record and a 6.62 ERA.
Hughes began the 2009 season in Triple-A before being called up in April to replace an injured Chien-Ming Wang. When Wang returned to the lineup in June, Hughes was moved to the bullpen, where he remained for the rest of the season. Hughes posted a 9.00 ERA against the Twins in the ALDS playoffs, and a 16.20 ERA in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
At the start of the 2011 season, Hughes’ fastball had dropped between 89-92 mph compared to his average 92-95 mph speed. After a rough 0-1 start and 13.94 ERA, Hughes was put on the disabled list with dead arm syndrome, and did not return until July.
Hughes then began the 2013 season on the disabled list once again with a bulging disc in his back, and did not return until April 6 against the Detroit Tigers. By the end of the season, Hughes had gone 1-10, and became the second Major League pitcher to lose fewer than two games in a season when making at least 15 home starts. In December of that year, Hughes signed a three-year deal with the Twins and became one of the starting pitchers.
Now, Hughes has the most wins out of the pitching roster, and has an ERA of 3.17. In 82.1 innings pitched, Hughes has given up just 29 earned runs, seven of them being home runs. With 72 strikeouts and eight walks, Hughes is now averaging .259.
Hughes has truly settled into a groove since joining the Twins and is as healthy as ever. And, of course, he’s been one of the most consistent players on the team. He has definitely switched his game around from a year ago, and has become a very good veteran for other pitchers to look up to. If he can keep this up and stay healthy, Hughes could post outstanding numbers at the end of the season.