Took a ride down the street to watch Phil Hughes’ rehab start for Double-A Trenton against the New Britain Rock Cats last night. After seeing that Hughes would be pitching here earlier in the week via Twitter, I was able to get a seat in the fourth row over the Thunder’s dugout (for $15 - got to love minor league baseball), so I had a decent vantage point (despite the shoddy picture produced by my old iPhone’s camera).
Hughes’ first: groundout to third, flyout to right (to the warning track) and lineout to left.
Hughes’ second: flyout to right (medium depth), groundout to second and strikeout (looking).
Hughes’ third: flyout to right (shallow), double in the gap in right, walk (on four pitches), strikeout (looking) and fielder’s choice (6-4).
Hughes’ fourth: walk, strikeout (looking), single (off 2b’s glove) and RBI single (ss couldn’t get the ball out of his glove).
Hughes departed with one out in the fourth (after his 70-pitch limit had been exceeded) with a line of three hits, one run (earned), two walks and three strikeouts on 72 pitches (42 strikes). Some thoughts:
-Hughes was hitting 93 and 94 on the stadium gun in the first two innings, but he consistently sat at 91 and 92 for most of the outing (which I believe is similar to what happened in his first rehab start).
-Couldn’t differentiate between cutters and two-seamers, but those were around 88-89 for most of the night.
-Hughes’ curve seemed fairly sharp, but I can only recall it getting a couple of swings and misses and he was definitely struggling to locate it. Threw much more off-speed stuff as his outing went along, even mixing in a few changeups.
-The double in the third and the long flyout in the first were the only balls that the Rock Cats hit particularly hard, but they were able to foul a lot of pitches off.
Conclusion: it’s too early to tell if Hughes’ apparent lower velocity is an indication of more fatigue issues or just a result of needing to rebuild arm strength after not pitching for so long (can’t imagine the cold and damp weather helped him get loose, either). However, I’d chalk it up as a mostly positive outing, as he was still able to get a number of swings and misses late despite lacking his best command.