Posted on: April 13, 2009 1:04 pm

Hughes and Kennedy

Nice write up in today's BA after their first starts:


The phone call reached the visiting clubhouse at Triple-A Buffalo on Monday morning, and the voice on the other end of the line sounded haggard and tired and soldiering through the day.

Which was to be expected following a trip from Allentown, Pa., coupled with an early rise and quick turnaround in a new locale for a 1 o’clock matinee.

But for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitching coach Scott Aldred, that was OK, considering the Yankees’ Triple-A pitching train smoked through Lehigh Valley (Phillies) over the weekend and sounded an unmistakable opening salvo to the 2009 season.

Remember Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes?

With all eyes on the David Price-Matt Wieters battle in Triple-A Durham, the two Yankees pitchers made quite the racket themselves in serving notice that the disappointments of last season will not carry over into a new one.

Matched opposite Lehigh Valley’s Carlos Carrasco, who was pretty good himself, Kennedy punched out 11 in six innings on Friday night. Hughes took the hill on Sunday and, though his stuff didn’t completely wipe out the Lehigh Valley lineup, it was still good enough for six innings and a victory that completed a four-game sweep.

"They both threw pretty well, and pounded the zone," Aldred said. "Ian was very good. He was ahead of every hitter and threw quality strikes."

And Hughes?

"Phil had a fastball yesterday and mixed in a few breaking balls," Aldred said. "He’s a typical slow starter in April, but he pitched OK yesterday."

It may have been only the season debuts for both, but Kennedy’s and Hughes’ success cannot be underscored enough in light of their struggles last year under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.

The pair opened 2008 in the Yankees rotation, but fell out of favor by the end of April. Kennedy was 0-4, 8.17 overall and eventually hit the disabled list because of a strained lat muscle in May. A cameo appearance in August bombed as well. Hughes went 0-4, 9.00 in six April starts, but turned it around in Scranton in the second half and struck out 10 in 12 innings in two September starts for the big league club.

Now here they are on the same staff again, in April, only in Scranton.

Kennedy, who outdueled Carrasco on a night the Phillies righthander struck out four over six scoreless innings, is coming off a nice showing this winter in the Puerto Rican League, where he worked on throwing his curve for strikes.

Asked if he demonstrated that ability on Friday, when Kennedy showed pinpoint control in not allowing a walk and yielding just a run on four hits, Aldred said, "Not yet. Some of them did."

But there’s a reason.

The Yankees late in spring training tweaked the shape to Kennedy’s curveball. While his fastball sat 90-92 mph on Friday, the curve showed nice signs—it’s shorter with a smaller break.

"All of his misses are in one spot right now, which is good," Aldred said. "It’s easily correctable."

Meanwhile, Hughes overcame early struggles—his first 22 pitches weren’t good enough to get outs—before he turned to his curveball.

But five pitches stood out to Aldred—Hughes’ changeup.

"He was a little inconsistent with his breaking pitches. His fastball had life. It plays out harder than it shows on the gun. It’s got a pretty good backstroke and jumps on hitters," Aldred said. "Our focus is to make sure he develops his changeup so when he gets back to New York he has another weapon, especially against lefthanded batters."

Aldred called Hughes’ changeup "all good ones," thanks to the righthander maintaining the same arm speed as he does on throwing the fastball.

"It’s very good," Aldred said. "It’s creating trust with it, and when that comes on, it will snowball over time. That’s what I hope happens."



Category: MLB
Tags: Hughes, Kennedy
Posted on: February 16, 2009 5:00 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2009 7:33 pm

Kennedy and Hughes-A year later

Last year at this time, it was a different feel in Yankeeland during Spring Training. After wrestling most of the winter with the decision, the Yankee braintrust decided not to ship any of their promising young arms out for Johan Santana, and instead elected to give 2 of them a spot in the rotation to begin the season. As we know now, that experiment failed miserably. Hughes went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in 6 April starts before being diagnosed with a cracked rib. His colleague was, if it could be believed, even worse. Kennedy finished 8 starts in April and May with an 0-3 record and a 7.41 ERA before he was replaced in the rotation. Unlike Hughes, Kennedy didn't have an injury to blame-and in fact angered many in both the organization and the fanbase when he publicly stated that he preferred pitching in AAA (where he curiously continued to dominate) because there was less pressure.

Now, a year later, both pitchers have had to mature quite a bit in and out of the NY fishbowl, and both have recent success on which to draw confidence. Hughes came back to pitch adequately in his last 2 big league starts in September, then proceeded to dominate the AAA playoffs as the Scranton Yankees took the International league Championship. He followed that with a strong showing in Arizona.

Kennedy also had a nice year in AAA (2.35 ERA), and pitched well for the AAA Yankees in the playoffs. He spun a 1.56 ERA over 35 innings in the Puerto Rican winter league.

The biggest difference for both of them undoubtedly will be what their surroundings look like in April. Neither is expected to make the team out of Spring Training. Hughes will be the first call to the rotation, and Kennedy won't be far behind.

What each hope is that 2009 is a far, far better year than 2008.


Category: MLB
Tags: Hughes, Kennedy
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