Hughes Happy With His Curve

Going 21-7 with a 2.12 ERA and holding opponents to a combined .181 batting average in his career thus far, Phil Hughes has simply dominated since being drafted by the Yankees two years ago. While there are many factors for his success, it was the decision by the Yankees to pocket his slider out of high school in favor of developing a curveball that has arguably made the biggest difference.

He handcuffed Double-A batters in 2006, going 10-3 with a 2.25 ERA as a 19-year old hurler facing much older competition and he credits the development of his curveball as the biggest reason why.

"I think it went real well," Phil Hughes said of his 2006 season. "Going into Spring Training, my curveball wasn't really where I wanted it to be. That was a huge key for me. I was able to develop it when I was in Tampa and then up in Trenton."

"It really helped me out during the season. That was good and pitching a full season, not going down with any injuries and making all my starts, was huge also. Everything worked out the way I wanted it to and I'm happy with the way things went."

Hughes came out of Foothill High School in California in 2004 armed with a plus fastball that sat in the mid-90's and a plus slider.

And even though his slider was one of his better pitches, Pitching Coordinator Nardi Contreras and the Yankees immediately did the inexplicable - they took Hughes' slider away from him and forced him to learn throwing the curveball.

While it might have been frustrating for Hughes in the beginning, he now looks back at that decision two years ago as the instrumental part of his developing success.

"Yeah, definitely," Hughes said if the Yankees having him shelve his slider and work solely on the curveball has been the biggest key to his development and success in the pros. "If they were to just throw me in [the pros] and say 'hey, you're fine, keep doing what you've been doing in high school,' I would have hit a huge roadblock."

"I've seen from other guys that you can't get away just throwing all fastballs and then maybe a slider here and there to give a guy a different look. It doesn't work like that. You've got to, not really pitch backwards, but you've got to know how to mix up your pitches, know hitter's counts and stuff like that. Having those three pitches has really helped me out a lot and I think it was a good call on the organization's standpoint."

The Yankees allowed Hughes to once again throw his slider at the start of the 2006 season since they were pleased with the progression of his curveball. And while he did start throwing his slider again this past season, Hughes decided on his own it was better to focus more on bettering his curveball.

"Once I started going back to it a little bit at the beginning of the year," he said of his slider, "it was a good pitch for me, but I felt that my curveball was better at the time. It was kind of one of those situations where either I can throw both and both can be pretty good, or I can focus in on just one and have that one be my one out-pitch."

"That's kind of the route I took and it ended up being pretty good. I can still throw my slider if I ever wanted to, but my curveball is at the point where whenever I want it, it is my out-pitch and can get a strikeout when I need it."

A perfectionist of sorts by nature, Hughes won't come out and say he has mastered the curveball but he is extremely pleased with its development and he believes it's right where he wants it to be at the current time.

"Yeah, I think so," Hughes said if his curveball is where he wants it to be right now. "Obviously it can always get better, but for right now I'm happy where it's at. I can throw it for strikes when I need to, bury it for a strikeout when I need to, and it's at the point now where I feel comfortable throwing it at any time. That's big for me."

"I don't pitch backwards but if I fall behind in the count and the guy is going to sit fastball, it doesn't force me to throw him the pitch he wants to see. It's really a big key for me. It can only get better and I'm really looking forward to next year."

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n \r\nHe handcuffed Double-A batters in 2006, going 10-3 with a 2.25 ERA as a 19-year old hurler facing much older competition and he credits the development of his curveball as the biggest reason why.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think it went real well,\" Phil Hughes said of his 2006 season. \"Going into Spring Training, my curveball wasn't really where I wanted it to be. That was a huge key for me. I was able to develop it when I was in Tampa and then up in Trenton.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"It really helped me out during the season. That was good and pitching a full season, not going down with any injuries and making all my starts, was huge also. Everything worked out the way I wanted it to and I'm happy with the way things went.\"
\r\n
\r\nHughes came out of Foothill High School in California in 2004 armed with a plus fastball that sat in the mid-90's and a plus slider.
\r\n
\r\nAnd even though his slider was one of his better pitches, Pitching Coordinator Nardi Contreras and the Yankees immediately did the inexplicable - they took Hughes' slider away from him and forced him to learn throwing the curveball.
\r\n
\r\nWhile it might have been frustrating for Hughes in the beginning, he now looks back at that decision two years ago as the instrumental part of his developing success.
\r\n
\r\n\"Yeah, definitely,\" Hughes said if the Yankees having him shelve his slider and work solely on the curveball has been the biggest key to his development and success in the pros. \"If they were to just throw me in [the pros] and say 'hey, you're fine, keep doing what you've been doing in high school,' I would have hit a huge roadblock.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I've seen from other guys that you can't get away just throwing all fastballs and then maybe a slider here and there to give a guy a different look. It doesn't work like that. You've got to, not really pitch backwards, but you've got to know how to mix up your pitches, know hitter's counts and stuff like that. Having those three pitches has really helped me out a lot and I think it was a good call on the organization's standpoint.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe Yankees allowed Hughes to once again throw his slider at the start of the 2006 season since they were pleased with the progression of his curveball. And while he did start throwing his slider again this past season, Hughes decided on his own it was better to focus more on bettering his curveball.
\r\n
\r\n\"Once I started going back to it a little bit at the beginning of the year,\" he said of his slider, \"it was a good pitch for me, but I felt that my curveball was better at the time. It was kind of one of those situations where either I can throw both and both can be pretty good, or I can focus in on just one and have that one be my one out-pitch.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"That's kind of the route I took and it ended up being pretty good. I can still throw my slider if I ever wanted to, but my curveball is at the point where whenever I want it, it is my out-pitch and can get a strikeout when I need it.\"
\r\n
\r\nA perfectionist of sorts by nature, Hughes won't come out and say he has mastered the curveball but he is extremely pleased with its development and he believes it's right where he wants it to be at the current time.
\r\n
\r\n\"Yeah, I think so,\" Hughes said if his curveball is where he wants it to be right now. \"Obviously it can always get better, but for right now I'm happy where it's at. I can throw it for strikes when I need to, bury it for a strikeout when I need to, and it's at the point now where I feel comfortable throwing it at any time. That's big for me.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't pitch backwards but if I fall behind in the count and the guy is going to sit fastball, it doesn't force me to throw him the pitch he wants to see. It's really a big key for me. It can only get better and I'm really looking forward to next year.\"","mobileBody":" ","skipOnMobile":true,"media":[],"dateOverride":"2006-12-12T07:06:00","authorOverride":"Patrick Teale","role":"","isPremium":true,"isHotNews":false,"isRumor":false,"syndicationFlag":true,"isClassified":true,"hotNamesLinked":true,"storyImage":"[MEDIA:353429]","mainImage":{},"thumbnailImage":"[THUMBNAIL:353429]","heroImage":{},"authorImage":"","tags":[{"id":"158","name":"New York 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