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The Latest Dreadful Phil Hughes Start Had a Sweet Ending, at Least

The good news, of course, is that the Yankees won last night — came all the way back from five runs down, tied the game in the bottom of the nine (on a Jorge Posada home run), then won it an inning later (on a Mark Teixeira walk, an A-Rod double, and a Nick Swisher sac fly). For what it's worth on April 15, the Yankees moved ahead of Baltimore in the standings and now sit atop the American League East. Plus, A.J. Burnett got to throw his first celebratory pie of the year. These are all very good things.

The concern, of course, is that 5–0 deficit they faced in the fifth inning — or, more accurately, that Phil Hughes, with two terrible outings under his belt already, turned in another one last night, allowing those five runs in just four and a third innings of work. (It's never a good sign, incidentally, when a pitcher compiles those numbers and sees his ERA drop, as it did last night to 13.94.) And for a pitcher whose decreased velocity has been a primary concern, this may be the worst news: According to brooksbaseball.net (via the Times), Hughes's fastball — which touched 91 to 92 miles per hour early in the game — averaged a season low 89.05 miles per hour by the time he left in the fifth.

Three games is a relatively small sample size, but this is historically bad stuff. Writes Andrew Marchand (via Was Watching):

Hughes is the third Yankee starter in the Live Ball Era to have allowed at least five runs and pitch fewer than five innings in each of his first three starts of the season. The others are Chien-Ming Wang in 2009 and Brian Boehringer in 1995.

So what's next for Hughes? From the Star-Ledger:

"We'll talk about it," general manager Brian Cashman said, an acknowledgment that the team will begin exploring alternatives, such as skipping Hughes in the rotation.

The Yankees have two off days next week, so Hughes could be passed over if they so choose. But if something more drastic needs to happen, it's worth noting that Bartolo Colon, currently working out the bullpen and waiting for a shot to start, looked pretty good in his three innings last night — ones that kept the Yankees in the game.

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Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images