Beginning tonight Phil Hughes, 'The Franchise,' gets another chance to prove that all the years of hype surrounding the ballyhooed young right-hander (he's still just 22) haven't been just hot air.
Hughes is 5-7 with a 5.15 ERA in his embryonic big-league career. Yankee players are still optimistic about Hughes' future.
"People would probably be surprised to hear that he's still only 22," Derek Jeter said. "We've been hearing a lot about him for years, so people don't realize how young he still is."
Here is Andy Pettitte's assessment.
"I think it would be pretty easy to dismiss last year considering what we were asking him to do at a very young age," Pettitte said. "I don't think people quite understand when you're labeled as a No. 1, 2 or 3 starter when you've never had that title before in a big-league rotation. To put the kind of pressure on him and Ian like we did, it was a tough spot for them."
Having added CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to the rotation - not to mention using Joba Chamberlain as a starter from the beginning of the season - the Yankees aren't looking for Hughes to be a savior. Girardi hopes Hughes can just pitch his game and give the Yankees a chance to win, something Pettitte believes will be much easier without the massive expectations that came his way last spring.
"He's surrounded here by some of the best pitchers in the league, so there should be no pressure on him," Pettitte said. "He ought to be able to come here and settle in, just do what he's been doing in Triple-A."
I still think Hughes is going to be a very good big-league pitcher. Remember that last season he was the youngest starting pitcher in the majors. The Yankees probably asked for too much, too soon.
Now, however, would be the perfect time for The Franchise to start fulfilling all that promise.