Offseason Q&A with Phil Hughes

One thing is for sure, Phil Hughes has the entire Yankee organization behind him. But, what about Phil Hughes himself? What are his thoughts on being a Yankee? What does he see in his future? And, what does he expect out of himself? Find out now as we we hear from Yankee's star prospect, Phil Hughes.

PinstripesPlus: First and foremost, Phil, who were you pulling for in the Yankees vs. Red Sox series this year?

Phil Hughes: Well, I was torn, definitely (laughing). But, actually I just pulled for both teams. So, either way I was happy. Actually, in a way, it was a good thing. I grew up a Red Sox fan. My father is from Rhode Island so I was introduced to the Red Sox when I was a little kid. But, now that I'm a Yankee, I find myself rooting for the Yankees. I'm a Yankee now so I can't root for just the red Sox anymore. I would have been happy if the Yankees beat the Sox this year, too.

PinstripesPlus: So, growing up a Red Sox fan, how nice is it for you to draw comparisons to two of the great Red Sox pitcher's ever, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens?

Hughes: Wow, even being mentioned with those guys is amazing. But, yeah, I'd say it is pretty nice to be compared to those guys. They're great pitchers and if I can become what they are, it will be a dream come true.

PinstripesPlus: Now, what were your expectations heading into the 2004 draft? What teams had shown interest in you?

Hughes: The word I was getting was that the Yankees were my wall. I knew they were very interested in me but they would be as a far as I would fall in the draft. The Angels had expressed a lot of interest in me, but they said they would need a lot of other stuff to fall into place before they could get me. And, another team interested in me was the Twins; they picked not too far before the Yankees. So, once those two teams already picked in the 1st round, I knew it was going to be the Yankees. They told me before the draft that if I was still available, they'd take me. So, I was very happy with how it turned out. Having the Yankees pick me was great. Going higher in the draft would have been nice but you can't beat being a Yankee.

PinstripesPlus: What was the adjustment like for you in your first season of professional baseball?

Hughes: I think the biggest thing was just my surroundings. The pitching aspect of it didn't change for me. I still took the same approach and everything. Just adjusting to new surroundings was an adjustment for me. The change didn't effect my on field performance but just being far from home was different. But, once I got past that, everything else was pretty easy.

PinstripesPlus: You endured a season full of injuries in 2004. How frustrating was it for you to sit out all that time?

Hughes: Oh, it was definitely very frustrating. The injuries were really nothing serious at all but the organization just wanted to take it really slow and be extra cautious. I can understand that but it was just tough because I was so anxious to get out there and show what I could do. I remember sitting there and thinking that I could be out there dominating a lot of the competition that we were facing. So, that was frustrating for me. The fact that injuries weren't serious was good but just being unable to pitch routinely was what bothered me. But, its just one of those things and now I'm just looking forward to this season.

PinstripesPlus: How much did mini-camp help you get over your regular season in terms of showing what you were made of?

Hughes: Mini-camp was great. I think I was able to really show what I can really do. That's the key; staying healthy and just performing. When I wasn't healthy, I wasn't able to show what I could do. But, in mini-camp I got to throw a lot and open some eyes. I know they think a lot of me, but it is important for me not to take that for granted. I have to go out there with the same mentality, trying to prove myself. I did very well down there and they were able to get a long look at me. Yeah, it was definitely nice to perform well. I just wanted to get out there and pitch. It was tough being inactive and not being able to throw all the time.

PinstripesPlus: The word we've heard from the organization is that you'll be starting the 2005 season in low A Charleston. Have you heard anything about where you'll be pitching in 2005?

Hughes: Yeah, that's the same thing I've been hearing so far. If that's what it is, that's great but if it isn't, I'm fine with that too. Considering that I barely pitched any innings last year, it is a pretty nice compliment that they'd send me to long season ball this year. I'm not positive about where I'll begin the year but Charleston has been the one I've heard the most. But, I'm still going to Spring Training with the same attitude. I'll go in, try and stay healthy and put up the best performance I can. Then, I'll see what the organization wants to do from there.

PinstripesPlus: If you do pitch in Charleston this season, is the long season something you have given any thought to?

Hughes: It is definitely something I am aware will be a big change but it isn't something that I'm really concerned about. I think I'm definitely prepared for it. I'm used to pitching a lot of innings and I love pitching every week for as long as I possibly can. I just like to eat innings and I'm hoping that's what I'll get a chance to do this year.

PinstripesPlus: At this point, is your repertoire the same as it was when you played in high school?

Hughes: Right now, I throw a four seam fastball, a changeup and a curveball. But, yeah, there has been a couple changes the Yankees have made. In high school, my slider was my best pitch. But, the Yankees don't want me throwing it right now. It is just one of their philosophies. But, they've really helped me develop my curveball and that has become a good pitch for me. So, in a lot of ways, it's good that they did that, allowing me to develop a new breaking pitch.

PinstripesPlus: Without your slider, what would you now say is your best pitch?

Hughes: I'd say it is definitely my fastball. I throw pretty hard and there is no better pitch in the game than a fastball. I really know how to locate it so I'd say it is my best pitch. With the command I have of it, it is a great pitch for me.

PinstripesPlus: It has been said that one thing the Yankees will have you working on is movement on your fastball. Have you worked on anything of that nature?

Hughes: Well, it isn't something we have actively worked on. Movement is something that is more natural and something that isn't real easy to teach. But, I have messed around with some different pressure points and stuff. But, the thing is that if I'm locating my fastball the way I am now, movement is not going to be a real big factor. It's more about having a comfort zone with the fastball where you can have the good velocity, movement and location.

PinstripesPlus: Nardi Contreras, among others in the organization have said that you are the most polished pitcher they have seen and that you have the best mechanics they have seen. What do you say to this?

Hughes: Well, it is certainly nice of them to say. Yes, I do think I have really good mechanics and that makes me a little more advanced. That's something I'm proud of. And, I've learned that with a good delivery, it is going to lessen the chances of me being injured in the future.

PinstripesPlus: Switching gears for a moment, which one of your teammates impressed you the most in the Gulf Coast League this year?

Hughes: Even though he got off to a bad start, I'd have to say Jon Poterson. That guy just crushes the ball. I think he is going to be just amazing.

PinstripesPlus: What pitcher impressed you the most?

Hughes: There were two guys that were really great. Jeff Marquez, who wasn't there long, was awesome. He's really advanced and has filthy stuff. The other one is Christian Garcia. He's got that amazing curveball and he has a great arm. Once he learns to locate some of his pitches a little better, he's going to be really special.

PinstripesPlus: What goals have you set for yourself in 2005?

Hughes: I don't have any goals in terms of statistics but my main goal is to stay healthy. I know if I'm healthy for a whole season, I'm going to do great. I'm confident in my abilities. But, I just want to make every one of my starts and eat a lot of innings. If I do that, I can say that I'll be successful.

PinstripesPlus: What would you say is your best attribute as a pitcher?

Hughes: My aggressiveness is my best attribute. I like to attack each hitter and I'm not afraid at all to pitch inside. Any hitter I face, I pitch with the same aggressiveness. I'm confident with my command so I'm not afraid to pound the strike zone. I think that's what makes me as good as I am.

PinstripesPlus: You have been complimented on your ability to field your position. What are your thoughts on that?

Hughes: Yeah, I think of myself as being able to field my position very well. I played a lot of third base in high school when I wasn't pitching. So, I have good reflexes. I like to think of myself as an athlete and not just a pitcher. I can field my position and I'm happy that people notice that I'm a good athlete, too.

PinstripesPlus: What is it that you think the Yankees expect from you in the long term?

Hughes: Well, I think the ultimate goal is to get me to the big leagues, of course. They always say that it is all about the development and whatever it takes for me to develop correctly, that's what it will be. Ultimately, it is all about getting to the big leagues.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Phil Hughes for taking the time to answer our questions this offseason. We'll be checking in with Phil throughout the 2005 season so be sure to visit the site often for more updates on his progress.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories