Yankees starter Phil Hughes, who will pitch Game 3 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers tonight in Detroit, grew up a big Red Sox fan.
Here is a story I wrote on Hughes last year …
Phil Hughes, Yankees still have much to prove
Aug 31st, 2011
By Christopher Smith
BOSTON — New York Yankees starter Phil Hughes was working at Baskin-Robbins on Oct. 16, 2003 when Aaron Boone hit a walkoff home run against Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS between the Yanks and Red Sox.
Hughes, then a high school senior, was a huge Red Sox fan growing up and was crushed by Boone’s blast.
“I had a job back home in California working at a Baskin-Robbins, and I would call my mother like every 20 minutes or so just to get updates on that game,” Hughes said. “Then, she called me and said that some guy hit a home run. Yeah, that was pretty brutal.”
Less than a year later Hughes was drafted by the Yankees in the first-round, 23rd overall, in the 2004 amateur draft.
“I was a big Red Sox fan,” Hughes said, smiling, “and then I was drafted by the Yankees and it all changed.”
Flash forward about seven years later to today. Hughes will be on the mound at Fenway Park tonight pitching against the team he grew up loving.
And he and his New York Yankees have a great deal to prove here against Boston.
Hughes said the Yankees have more to prove this series than do the Red Sox who entered yesterday with a 10-2 record vs. New York this season.
One thing the Yankees must prove is that their starting pitching is good enough to compete with Boston in the postseason.
Hughes, for one, has struggled with decreased velocity this year, especially when he posted a 13.94 ERA in his first three starts before landing on the disabled list.
A strong start for Hughes today could go a long way for him and the Yankees — especially after CC Sabathia proved last night that he can pitch well against the Red Sox after starting out 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against them this season.
Sabathia did a decent job last night, going six innings, giving up two runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out 10.
“We want to come into this series and have a good showing,” Hughes said before yesterday’s game. “They’ve kind of handed it to us this year. But we’re both right there. Hopefully, we can have a good series. I remember back in ’09 they won a bunch of games early and then we came back and had a pretty good second half against them. So hopefully, we can get that started here this series.”
Hughes must step up, especially since A.J. Burnett has been so inconsistent lately, allowing 30 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings in August.
A BETTER HUGHES
Hughes’ fastball was an average of 89.3 mph through his first three starts this season, according to Fangraphs.com. That was down from an average fastball speed of 93.8 mph in 2009.
Hughes was diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation after landing on the DL in mid-April
He didn’t pitch from April 14 until July 6. He rested the shoulder at first, then did shoulder strengthening exercises. he said. “It was a pretty heavy workload just to make sure they got all the inflammation out and then strengthened it,” he said.
Hughes has pitched much better since his return, allowing two runs or fewer in six of his eight starts.
But he has gotten hit hard in two of his starts, both against Oakland.
Hughes said he feels much better physically and his velocity has improved but it is not to where he wants it to be yet.
“I’m at a point where obviously there’s room for improvement,” Hughes said. “But it’s a lot better than the beginning of the year. It’s certainly at a point where if I’m executing pitches and locating, then I can work with it.
“I’ve had a couple of rough, shaky outings,” he added. “But it’s just all about consistency right now.”
PASSIONATE SOX FAN
So how does a boy from Mission Viejo, Calif. end up a Red Sox fan?
Well, Hughes’ dad grew up in Lincoln, R.I. and moved to California after graduating from college in Kansas.
“I’d make sure try to go to at least one series (each year) when they (the Red Sox) were in Anaheim,” Hughes said.
Hughes’ favorite Red Sox’ memory growing up was the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park.
“When they brought Ted Williams out,” he said. “And Nomar (Garciaparra) was in the Home Run Derby and he was one of my favorite players.”
Hughes had a Garciaparra poster in his bedroom that stated “Reverse the Curse.”
Hughes said he visited Fenway once as a kid.
“I remember that Mo Vaughn and Nomar hit a homer that day,” Hughes said.
PITCHING VS. BOSTON
Hughes said he loves pitching here because Fenway is one of the few historical ballparks in baseball that still exists.
But he certainly doesn’t like facing the Boston lineup.
“It’s really tough,” he said. “They were tough before and then they added Adrian Gonzalez — and Jacoby Ellsbury has come back from injury to have a great year. It’s a really, really tough lineup. It’s never a fun one to face, especially here. It’s a tough place to pitch. It’s tough but you’ve got to be on top of your game and I have a feeling CC (Sabathia) will do that tonight and hopefully I can follow it up.”
Sabathia was on top of his game last night. Now, let’s see if Hughes can be tonight. If he is, this Yankees team will have made a pretty big statement.