Yankees: In Hughes We Trust

The message is clear from the Yankee organization. In Hughes we trust. Phil Hughes has received total backing from the organization despite his numerous injuries in 2004. With the polish of a college arm and outstanding raw stuff, the Yankees plan to let Hughes steamroll through the system with total faith in their prize pitching prospect.

You can't quite call 2004 a disappointment concerning Phil Hughes' performance, but it certainly was a slight letdown considering how high everyone's hopes were. He was limited to only five innings pitched in the Gulf Coast League but that hasn't taken any of the luster off the Yankee draft prize. In fact, it has been said that those five innings were as impressive as any innings pitched during the entire season. Under ordinary circumstances, a pitcher with this amount of innings would be sent back to Rookie Ball for another season. But, in the organization's eyes, this young righty is no ordinary pitcher.

It is common practice in the Yankee organization to show faith and trust in their best prospects. But, what has been rare in the past few seasons amidst a dormant farm system as far as producing prospects, has been the idea of truly challenging their young players. Instead, the Yankees had taken a very slow approach. However, they have suddenly seemed to change their approach over the past calendar year. Maybe it is just that they haven't had a talent like Hughes in a number of years or just a change in philosophy. Either way, the Yankees seem to trust Phil Hughes more than any other prospect in their system. Just how much do they trust that Phil Hughes will succeed and succeed quickly? Well, they were confident enough to plan on putting an 18 year old with only five professional innings under his belt in a full season league in 2005. No matter what the philosophy of an organization may be, this does not happen very often with players with the age and experience of Hughes. There is no doubt that the Yankees are now seeing their prospects in a new light and the trust in Phil Hughes seems to be their showcase example.

"Phil Hughes, he looks like he is going to be a big time pitcher for this organization," Pitching Coordinator, Nardi Contreras told PinstripesPlus.com. "From what I saw from him in mini-camp, he looks like a fine young pitcher. He has a good head on his shoulders and he throws the ball well. He has three good pitches and looks like he could move quickly through the system. I was very impressed with him when I saw him. He just shows you why he was our top pick this year. In my opinion, the Yankees made a great pick taking Hughes." This just goes to show you, with words like these, just how much the Yankees are confident with their first round selection. It is obvious that he had more time to prove himself than just the regular season, though. It turns out that mini-camp is where he really lit up the eyes of the organization. Until then, it looked like he would be ticketed back to the Gulf Coast League for sure. When asked who he was most impressed with in mini-camp, one of the organization's pitching coaches, Greg Pavlik had this to say. "Definitely (Phil) Hughes," said Pavlik. "He has awesome stuff and he has the chance to be a very, special pitcher for us."

Under most circumstances, the Yankees rarely even venture to skip levels at all with teenage pitchers. However, one of the first to change this trend was Tyler Clippard. We talked to Clippard's manager in 2004, Bill Mosiello and asked him who he thought would follow in Clippard's footsteps. "I think it will be Phil Hughes," Mosiello told PinstripesPlus.com. "I know he only threw something like five innings this year in the Gulf Coast League but I really think the organization doesn't want to leave him in short season next season. The reason being is this guy already knows how to pitch. That is why he was such a great draft pick by the organization. We aren't teaching him anything big that he doesn't already know. His mechanics are great, he is a big, strong kid and he already throws strike after strike. There is no real reason to keep him out of the full season leagues. Watch out for him because he has it all going right now." Of course, the Yankees knew this even before they drafted Hughes. He is as polished as they come and according to his High School Athletic Director, Vince Brown, he has been this way for as long as he's known him. "I think he will figure out the pitching part real quickly, coaches will find him a dream to work with," said Brown. "He makes changes over night." Phil Hughes may make changes over night, but the New York Yankees think the world of him just the way he is.

A two level jump is all lined up for Phil Hughes in 2005 as he will head the pitching staff in low A Charleston. This is a jump only suited for the most polished of pitchers. How polished is? Well, according to Nardi Contreras, he is the most polished pitcher in the system at the ripe age of 18. "I'd have to say Phil Hughes is the most polished," says Contreras. "The kid throws hard and he throws strikes. But, he also has good mechanics and has a good head on his shoulders. Also, he is very athletic. You can't ask for much more than that out of such a young guy." The Yankees aren't asking for anything more from Hughes because they already know what they have. They believe he is over his nagging 2004 injuries and is ready to tear through the minor league ladder at a rapid pace in 2005. The fact is, what is going to possibly stop Phil Hughes climb the ladder and eventually dominate? With his advanced aptitude for pitching, amazingly fluid mechanics and explosive raw stuff, we may be looking at something special. And, the Yankees know this. It is no wonder they trust him with this ticket to full season ball in 2005. If he can stay healthy, the Yankees may not be saying "In Hughes We Trust" in terms of his development, but "In Hughes We Trust" as the ace of the Bronx Bomber pitching staff not too far down the road.

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