The Minnesota Twins have designated Phil Hughes for assignment.
Late Monday night, after the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers game, the Twins announced that they chose to designate right-hander Phil Hughes for assignment. Hughes, a 31-year-old RHP out of Santa Ana, California, struggled in 2018 after being bumped out of the rotation for a swingman role. He started two games and appeared in five others out of the bullpen. In those seven games, Hughes racked a 6.75 ERA in 12 innings. This included giving up nine earned runs on 14 hits. His numbers were lackluster, like most of his time in Minnesota.
The former New York Yankees right-hander turned a 2014 season with the Twins into a long-term deal as the face of the franchise. However, the success in 2014 was never repeated. Aside of the onset of injuries, his ERA went up to 4.40 in 2015, 5.95 in 2016 (with a 1-7 record). His last two seasons, 2016 and 2017, were beset by injuries, including not one, but one and a half thoracic outlet syndrome surgeries. While recovering and attempting to return, Hughes lost his rotation spot as a number of quality prospects moved up the system.
Phil Hughes’ statistics in 2014 and 2009 are very similar, despite being in different roles. In 2009, Hughes served as a back-end reliever for Joe Girardi. That season, he relieved in 44 games, throwing up a 3.03 ERA (statistically his best season by ERA). In 2014, as a starting pitcher, Hughes threw a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts. In 209 innings, Hughes racked up 186 strikeouts and reduced the number of home runs allowed to 16 (compared to 24 and 35 the previous two years). However, the home run bug never got out of Phil Hughes. After the great 2014 season, he gave up 29 home runs in 2015, which fueled the higher ERA.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is an annoying surgery in that, unlike Tommy John surgery, we have not figured out yet how to get pitchers back to serviceable post-surgery. There are several examples of pitchers who have needed thoracic outlet surgery. The most notable to come back and pitch with any authority is Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals. However, his stuff diminished in comparison to the 2011 World Series championship year. The Mets signed Shawn Marcum off of thoracic outlet surgery. He ended up ineffective and would be under the knife again. The most prominent recent case is Matt Harvey, who seems to have nothing after thoracic outlet surgery. There is still hope the Cincinnati Reds will fix him. However, it is not promising.
Phil Hughes’ time in Minnesota did not go as well as expected. The Minnesota Twins are eating over $13 million in cutting him. There has been some barking among Yankee fans to bring him home on a minors deal to see if the coaching staff can fix him. However, Hughes still has flyball problems and bringing him back to Yankee Stadium would be a major mistake. While a minors deal always help with depth, there just does not seem to be a place for the former Yankee prospect.
Similar to his ending in New York, Phil Hughes’ time in Minnesota ends on a whimper.