Hughes Out Until July; Kennedy Rocked Again
The American League East standings appear as if they are upside down. After the first month of the regular season, Baltimore and Tampa Bay are ahead of the Yankees, and the two second-division also-rans may have been the doormats of the bunch long enough. The Bronx Bombers are closer to the basement than they are first place.
What in the name of Hank Steinbrenner is going on around here?
The main reason for the Yankees' 14-15 record after April can be attributed to 2/5 of their starting rotation. Their ace, Chien-Ming Wang, is undefeated in five decisions and has a 3.23 ERA. Andy Pettitte, after a rough outing on Wednesday night, is 3-3 and an ERA just under four. Mike Mussina, left for dead at the end of last season, has surprised a bit with the same record as Pettitte, but a higher ERA (4.73).
The two young guns, Phillip Hughes and Ian Kennedy, who were being counted on to be solid as the numbers three and four starters, respectively, have been nothing but awful at best and atrocious at worst. Hughes (0-4, 9.00 ERA) was pounded again on Tuesday evening, allowing six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings to Detroit. Kennedy has lost both of his decisions (with a no-decision on Thursday night in the 8-4 defeat to Detroit, allowing four earned runs in less than five innings of work), and his ERA is nearly as bad (8.37). In 45 2/3 combined innings, the pair has allowed an alarming 62 hits and 33 walks.
As soon as the heat was turned up and there was talk that the 21 year-old Hughes - the youngest pitcher in the majors - should be sent down to Triple-A for more seasoning and a possible confidence boost, he was diagnosed with had been described as a right oblique muscle strain and placed on the 15-day disabled list. The following day, x-rays and an MRI revealed that Hughes had a stress fracture in his ninth rib, and will be sidelined until July.
"The time frame for his injury is now longer," general manager Brian Cashman told reporters. "He will not do anything for four weeks at all in terms of throwing."
Even when they are performing as amateur actors, the Yankees' brass can't seem to get it right. Prior to Wednesday night's game, both Cashman and manager Joe Girardi stressed to the media for over a half an hour that Hughes was still in the rotation, with nary a mention of any injury. During the seventh inning of the game (a 6-2 Tigers win), the announcement was made that the righthander was being placed on the DL.
In the post-game sessions, Cashman and Girardi could not exactly remember when they were first aware of Hughes' injury. The GM said that Hughes himself told him, but according to Hughes, he only informed the team trainers about it. Left hand, meet the right hand.
To make matters worse, it was Hughes and/or Kennedy who Cashman would not part with in the winter as part of a trade to acquire two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. In what has been a slow start for him, the lefty is 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA for the cross-town Mets.
"I made a long-term recommendation and I'm very comfortable with that," Cashman continued. "Anything in the short term doesn't change that."
One month does not a season make. The signs are there to make a case that Hughes and Kennedy are not the right people for the job at this time. But fortunes could turn and one or both of these talented pitchers may find the secrets of their success by the end of the season. Until that time, the path there has hit a bumpy fork in the road.