Searching for a cause for his substantial loss in velocity, Phil Hughes and pitching coach Larry Rothschild watched tape from a year ago.Rothschild has a reputation for tinkering with a pitcher's mechanics, and his track record is quite strong - this is welcome news, to say the least. I am far from an expert on mechanics and deliveries, but the majority of pitchers do generate velocity from their lower halves, so it stands to reason that a slight alteration in Hughes' push-off or lower-body torque could throw things off so drastically. With an off-day today and a short travel time, I'm curious to see how much progress Hughes can make prior to his start against the Orioles.
"Larry looked at the video and saw a difference," Hughes said following a bullpen session before last night's game. "I used my lower half more."
Hughes firmly believes his drop in velocity from 94-95 mph a year ago to 89-90 in two starts this season is related to arm strength. Yet he was open to Rothschild tinkering with his mechanics and getting more momentum generated by his thick legs.
Yesterday, at least, it paid off with more life on the fastball in the bullpen. Now, the next step is to carry it over to Wednesday night's start against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
"I couldn't feel it, but I could see it," Hughes said of the difference from how he was pushing off a year ago and in the first two brutal outings this season. "I was more aggressive driving toward the plate. Hopefully I will get better arm strength as well."
Because Hughes' fastball doesn't have a lot of movement, he stands a good chance of it getting punished at the 89-90 mph range. It certainly hasn't produced results in the first two games, in which Hughes has worked six innings, given up 12 hits, 11 runs, four walks and fanned one. He is 0-1 with a 16.50 ERA.
Hughes said the down time between outings is good to work on things, and that there is a chance he will reduce his in-between bullpen sessions to one from two.
However, he is anxious to remove the stench of Friday's two-inning disaster, in which he surrendered six runs in two innings to the Red Sox.
"I'd like to get back out there," Hughes said. "I don't want to sit on the last start any longer. It's tough to swallow."
On another note, I am bothered by the fact that the Yankees don't seem to have any plans to have Hughes looked over by team doctors. While there is no real rule for predicting arm injuries, it is worth noting that most instances of Tommy John Surgery come on the heels of a sharp decline in both velocity and command - both of which Hughes has struggled with this year. Coupled with a large jump in innings from 2009 to 2010 ... it would seem prudent to at least consider some physical examination.