I am a Phil Hughes supporter. I wanted to see the Yankees develop an ace, the type of young arm that could anchor a rotation for years to come. I wanted Hughes to be the type of pitcher the Yankees trusted during game seven of a hypothetical world series.
That time may still come. Hughes is just twenty-five years young and for all any of us may know, he could turn into the type of arm Baseball America thought he would be when he was named the number four prospect in all of baseball after an utterly dominant campaign at Double-A Trenton back in 2006.
But it's not 2006 anymore, and Hughes isn't facing clueless hitters in the Eastern League. He is pitching in the unforgiving American League East, and his job is on the line.
He will get a chance tonight to prove himself, to showcase some of the potential he flashed back in Trenton, or on that fateful night in Texas when he popped a hamstring while tossing a no-hiter in only his second major league start.
There is no way around it anymore. No living off of potential. Phil Hughes needs to step up, and with the rotation about to be trimmed from six men to five, tonight is Hughes' best chance to show Joe Girardi and company that he belongs in the rotation.
Tonight may be the last time we see Hughes take the mound during the first inning in 2011, or it may be the outing that solidifies his spot in this rotation.
Everything is on the table for Hughes tonight.