"I expected him to pitch like he pitched even with the tough conditions," said the new Triple-A pitching coach. "He hasn't ever pitched in cold weather. He was in Florida St league last year. I'm sure this is the coldest weather he ever pitched in his life."
Despite his solid performance, he did not feel it was his best performance.
"Pretty well, not my best, not my worst," Phil Hughes said of his first start in 2007. "It's a good start to work off of."
While he did not believe it was his best, he was content with his night and acknowledged what could have gone better for him.
"I could cut down the walks," he immediately said of what he could have changed. "I think pretty much all those things, be in the lines a little bit better."
"I had a couple of bad breaks. Tippee had a slow roller," referring to one of the two hits in the game. "I threw a breaking ball that got away, but they didn't hit any balls too hard."
The weather in Scranton didn't help to make Hughes' night easy as the cold made it difficult for him to get in as much offspeed pitches as he might have liked. The weather did play a part in ending his night early though.
"The pitch count was about right. I threw about 75 pitches. With the conditions, they didn't want to keep me out there six or seven innings," he said referring to Eiland and manager Dave Miley.
"He could have gone 95 [pitches], but when it's 15 to 20 degrees out, they aren't counting the wind chill," Miley commented. "First time out in that cold weather, it's better to serve on the side of caution than push another inning out there."
Hughes welcomes the warmer weather, but made clear he can always improve no matter what the weather.
"When it gets warm outside, my stuff will be a little bit crisper, my breaking ball will be a little bit better," he admitted. "You can always get better - that's not the best I'm ever going to pitch."
Weather aside, he still managed work in some areas he expects to continue to improve upon on over the course of the season. One of those goals includes improvement in working both sides of the plate.
"You can't live away with the fastball, particularly behind in the count," said the 20-year old. "I've been consciously going inside a little bit more."
Eiland agreed with his assessment.
"When you're commanding the fastball on both sides of the plate, you can get away with the secondary pitches not being as sharp as you want them to be," said Eiland. "He moved some feet."
"He hit a guy. That was part of his success, that he was able to go down and away and they weren't as comfortable going to get them."
The biggest challenge will Hughes this season will his continued efforts to improve his changeup. He didn't have an easy first shot on Friday.
"It was a tough night to throw changeups, cold and dry," he said, acknowledging the difficulty the weather. "I couldn't really get a good grip on the ball."
Despite the difficulties, he still was determined to get his work in.
"He battled through it," Eiland stated. "Most guys would have ditched their secondary pitches, but he stuck to his game plan and what he need to worked on."
That game plan included getting off about a half-a-dozen changeups throughout the course of the start.
"I threw a couple of good ones. I threw about half and half, all strikes. I feel comfortable throwing it."
Eiland was proud of Hughes' work ethic in the game, happy that with the grittiness and toughness that he displayed.
"He had a tough time getting comfortable, because of the cold dry air," Eiland pointed out. "Those are feel pitches and he had a tough time."
"He still got them in, but he didn't command them as well as we like because of the cold dry air. He still threw them, and had good arm action, so there were some positives in there."
The continued development also means Hughes will not only continue to physically develop comfort in throwing the pitch, but mentally get in the mindset of the matter.
"It's not anything physical," Hughes said of his changeup. "It's about having a mindset of how you want to throw it. It's tough because it's such a feel pitch. You feel like you're throwing a fastball, but you have to trust it's going to go off-balance. It's come a long way from last year."
The changeup is an important part of his game now more than ever. No matter what odds, Hughes intends to continue to improve it.
"I wouldn't be working on it if I didn't think it was," he said if it will be a good pitch for him. "It's definitely a pitch that I need to have and will have. It's just a matter of throwing it more in game situations. It's definitely very important to have."
Eiland admitted the pitch would be seen in more game situations, and more importantly, in big game situations.
"It's not like he's going to go out and throw 20 percent changeups," said Eiland. "He is going to start throwing in bigger stations, let's just say that."
Hughes will continue to welcome all challenges this season, as well as challenge himself to be a better player. While his first start in Triple-A was a success, he knows there is much more to do.
"Just keep going out there, pitching," said Hughes. "I'll have better days, I'll have worse days. It's just a matter of staying healthy."