Hughes reflects on 2013, Yankees career

After down year, future in the Bronx uncertain for right-hander
09/27/2013 12:14 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

A disappointing 2013 may be the final year for Phil Hughes with the Yankees.(AP)
If Wednesday night's start truly was Phil Hughes' final start in pinstripes, manager Joe Girardi hopes the righty will look back at the whole of his tenure as a Yankee and not just what happened in 2013.

"He's done a lot of really good things for us. You go back to 2009 when we put him in the bullpen and he was dominant, and in 2010 and 2012 he had really good years. It's unfortunate this year didn't turn out the way all of us wanted for him, but hopefully as a player, he takes something from this year and finds a way to get back on track."

Entering his free agent season, Hughes had a lot to look forward to; he was coming off a strong 2012 that saw him go 16-13 with a 4.29 ERA in 32 starts, and he looked poised to continue to improve on that and continue his ascension to a top of the rotation starter.

Instead, after getting pulled in the third inning of his final start, Hughes looks like he'll finish 2013 with a 4-14 record, a 5.19 ERA, and perhaps a one-way ticket to anywhere else.

"It's definitely been tough; it's hard to think about right now, and I think I'll reflect more in the offseason," Hughes said when asked about his season after Wednesday's start. "It's been a long season, and hopefully there are a lot of things to learn from it."

Hughes was particularly ineffective at Yankee Stadium, going 1-10 with a 6.32 ERA, and although he coyly avoided admitting it all year, he finally said Wednesday night that the struggles of the season did weigh on him a bit mentally as time went on.

"It's difficult, and when things snowball the way they do and you have bad start after bad start, you start doubting yourself at times, and that's difficult to bounce back from," he said. "And when you get taken out of the rotation, you start to doubt yourself at times. This game can humble you really quick, so that was something that was hard to bounce back from; I tried to battle my way all year, and it didn't seem to work out."

He did have good stretches, but as the overall line shows and Hughes admits, he was never able to sustain success for very long.

"There were starts here and there where I felt like I had found something, but I wasn't able to put it together for strings of starts, which is how you make a season," he said. "You need to have quality starts, rattle off seven or eight in a row and maybe have a bad one or two now and then, but I couldn't really put that string together."

And, to add one last negative to the pile, it was Hughes who started the game where the Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention, which for him was the bitterest of pills to swallow.

"Any time you're in that spot it's tough, and in a game we actually had to win, it's tough to leave that way," Hughes said. "It's just a tough way to end things here, with not making the postseason. It was tough in 2008 and it's tough now, and it's obviously never a good feeling. On this team you get used to playing in October, and to not have that opportunity this year is extremely difficult."

If there is one positive that Hughes hopes come from that, it's that this year's adversity can fuel next year's fire.

"I think it may push a lot of guys to work harder next year, (because) I think in terms of disappointment can fuel you for the future," he said. "But the guys in here, we fought all year with injuries and all that, and for me personally, to have the year that I did, it was extremely tough to go through that."

Hughes hopes to be part of that future, but if he's not, then at least the former first-round pick can do as Girardi hoped and look back at his decade in the organization as a success.

"A lot of good times, a lot of bad times, I guess that's the only way to put it. That's the way life is sometimes, and as long as I feel I gave it my all, I can sleep at night."

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