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Yankees’ Bailout Plan: Hughes and Melancon

Posted by Andrew Zercie on April 28, 2009

The trend for the Yankees in recent seasons has gone like this: put together a team filled with 30-somethings, get off to a slow start, call up young players for an “infusion of youth,” play better baseball.

In 2005, Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang were big factors as the Yankees roared to a 95-win season after starting 11-10.

Mekly Cabrera did “all the little things” for the Yankees in 2006, including improving their outfield defense noticeably.

2007 was all about Joba Chamberlain becoming the eighth-inning savior ahead of Mariano Rivera, until the midges struck in the ALDS against Cleveland.

If Tuesday night’s 11-0 win over Detroit is any indication, the Yankees appear to be following that script again in 2009.

Phil Hughes, whose career has been derailed by injuries since his debut in 2007, tossed six shutout innings filling in for Chien-Mien Wang. Mark Melancon, who was ticketed for Triple A in 2009, tossed another shutout inning for the Yankees, his third in his first two ML appearances.

Both pitchers showed what they are capable of against a solid Detroit Tigers lineup. More importantly, with the Yankees reeling from losing four straight, Hughes and Melancon gave the team exactly what they needed in a pressure-packed situation: seven shutout innings, and the belief that brighter days may be ahead.

For Hughes, it was his first ML win since September 27, 2007 and one gets the sense that it won’t be his last this season, or even this week. As for Melancon, it seems as if Joe Girardi is holding an open audition to find quality, consistent pitching in the middle innings. Back-t0-back effective outings can only bolster Melancon’s case of becoming a fixture in the bullpen.

While Hughes and Melancon could simply be “keeping the seat warm” for injured established veterans Chien-Ming Wang and Brian Bruney, it would be in the Yankees’ best interests to find roles for these talented pitchers at the major league level for the rest of the season.

If Wang successfully comes back from his injury, why not install Hughes as a long reliever? When Bruney returns, why not plug Melancon in as the primary 7th inning pitcher, in front of Bruney and Rivera?

The Yankees need to keep these talented, hard-throwing youngsters on the major league roster. And, based on Ian Kennedy’s numbers in Triple A thus far (1.59 ERA, 25 K, 7 BB, 18 H in 22.2 IP), maybe the Yankees should find room for him somewhere as well. Keeping these guys in the majors could be the difference between the postseason and 3rd place in the AL East this year.

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2 Responses to “Yankees’ Bailout Plan: Hughes and Melancon”

  1. Vincent M said

    I’m not sure if putting Hughes in the bullpen is the right thing to do for a 22 year old. He needs innings to get better. However, I’m excited to see what Melancon can do for the bullpen. Robertson too!

    • az0610 said

      Vincent, thanks for reading.

      If Wang comes back and proves he is capable of being productive in the rotation, I could see the Yankees using Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in tandem, because of the likelihood that Joba will be on a 150-160 innings limit for the year.

      I wouldn’t use Hughes for 1 or 2 inning relief stints. I’d use him, theoretically, as a 4-5 inning relief pitcher when Joba pitches. Let Joba go 90-100 pitches, then bring in Hughes for the rest of the game. Perhaps the Yankees could even flip-flop them so Hughes could occasionally go 100+ pitches.

      I don’t see Hughes in short relief at all. Don’t want to confuse anyone on this. But, if Hughes and the other projected starters are all healthy, he should have a place on the ML roster, and that place could be tied to Joba somehow. It’s a thought anyway.

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