Phil Hughes came to the Trenton Thunder in 2006 as a 19-year-old kid with all the potential in the world. Four years and seven innings of ALDS shutout baseball later, and it’s pretty clear that potential has finally been realized and then some.
Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland knows this all too well. He was trusted with Hughes in Double-A as the Thunder’s pitching coach in 2006, and has played a huge role in the development of New York’s future ace. According to Eiland, Hughes’ maturity has played a big role in his progression from top pitching prospect to trusted postseason starter.
“I’ve watched him grow up. I’ve had him since he was 19 years old in Double-A, and I’ve seen him mature. He came in with some raw talent, but he’s always been mature beyond his years,” Eiland told me.
“I’m very proud of him, as I’m proud of all these other guys from CC and Andy Pettitte on down. But this is a kid I’ve had since he was 19 years old, and I’ve seen him go through some growing pains at the big league level, and I saw him dominate in the minor leagues. The first time he ever experienced any sort of failure so to speak was at the big league level, but he fought his way through it and it showed tonight with the way he pitched tonight.”
Stuff-wise, Eiland says that the biggest key to Hughes development since they were both at Waterfront Park is command of all his pitches. Yes, Eiland mentioned the much-discussed changeup, but it’s another pitch that may be getting underlooked.
“When he first started throwing his curveball, it was 68-69 miles per hour. Now, it’s anywhere from 74 to 78,” Eiland said.
“And he’s learning how to read swings, learning how to hold runners, the whole gamut of pitching.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com