Tonight, finally, we’ll begin to learn whether the Hughes Rules of 2010 will be less disastrous than the Joba Rules of 2009. As we’ve written before, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are two different human beings — and how the Yankees are handling Hughes is different from how they handled Chamberlain — so to compare one to the other isn’t really fair. But having seen something close to a worst-case scenario — Joba losing his spot in the rotation during the second half of last season — you could be forgiven for being just a little nervous as Hughes takes the mound tonight for the first time since beating the Mets on June 19.
Opposing him in the first game of the homestand will be future former Mariner Cliff Lee, centerpiece of the upcoming Cliff Lee Sweepstakes, in which plenty of teams — probably still including the Mets and maybe including the Yankees — will vie for the lefty’s services. (In this sweepstakes, it would seem, the true grand prize would be not just trading for him, but signing him to an extension.) For what it’s worth, Lee seems to like pitching at Yankee Stadium: He won the first-ever regular-season game there last April with the Indians, then won the first-ever World Series game there in October with the Phillies. On paper, it’s really quite the pitching matchup.
By the way, Joe West’s umpiring crew will reportedly be working this series — the first time West will work a Yankees game since calling Yankees–Red Sox contests “pathetic and embarrassing.” So expect the game to move along quickly … or else!