Potential and promise are two of the worst words in the human language when paired together. Much worse than any word that George Carlin could produce in his "7 dirty words" routine. Potential and promise may be the worst words of all time when they are associated with athletes.
Phil Hughes has been linked to the twin "P"s since the Yankees drafted him out of Foothill High School with the 23rd overall pick in the 2004 Major League Baseball amateur draft. Of course, Hughes was probably labeled with every positive long before he left Santa Ana, CA for the Gulf Cost League in Florida.
Joba Chamberlain had a big arm and a big arsenal of pitches when he strode the mound for the University of Nebraska. The Yankees snatched him up with the 41st overall pick of the 2006 MLB draft. Another first round selection with plenty of potential and promise. Even more so after Chamberlain was unexpectedly called up to the Majors on August 7, 2007. He was just 21-years old, but his 19 game stint brought excitement from a rookie that had not been seen since Shane Spencer grand slammed his way through the end of the 1998 season.
Things have changed drastically for both players since those early days. Injuries, loss of velocity, inconsistency, and inefficiency have all trumped the words that start with the letter "p". Hughes appeared to get on track in 2010 when he started the season 11-2, 3.65 and averaged better than eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His ERA in the second half was nearly 5.00 and he walked the same amount of batters (29) that he did in the first half, but in 26 less innings. The number of home runs allowed also increased, a major problem that has persisted since then.
A year later back issues and dropped velocity limited Hughes to 17 games. 2012 epitomized Hughes inability to produce a solid start on a consistent basis. His overall numbers - 16-13, 4.23 - weren't bad, and were bolstered by a stronger second half. His penchant for serving up gopher balls (35) continued to hurt his game. The positives gave the team something to look forward to in 2013, but a bulging disc slowed Hughes in Spring Training and he was the same inconsistent, home run served on a silver platter pitcher once the season started. He enters Thursday's start 3-6, 5.09 with 1.5 home runs and 10.2 hits allowed per nine innings.
Chamberlain has never recaptured the amazing dominance he showed in 2007. And it was not all his fault- the Yankees messed him up with their ridiculous "Joba Rules", they jerked him back and forth from the rotation and pen, and limitied his innings. And it all backfired because he ended up with Tommy John surgery anyway.
Wednesday night's game with Texas was typical of Joba's performances these days. Either allow the other team to increase their lead in the game as the Rangers did, or have the Yankees lead quickly become less. Chamberlain may have a big repertoire of pitches, but they're just about all flat and hittable. He's also as immature as his first day in the Major Leagues.
What it all means is that it is time to get rid of both- Joba through a trade by the deadline (Don't expect much in return.) and Hughes by letting him walk when he becomes a free agent after the end of the 2013 season. (Chamberlain is also set to become a free agent, but why hold on to him that long.)
There would be an opening in the bullpen with Chamberlain jettisoned out of town, an opening that would be filled by Hughes for the remainder of the season. (It's likely the Yankees wouldn't get much through a trade so why not get draft pick(s) instead when he signs somewhere else?) It's a shame to give up on Hughes, I held out as long as I could, but his trouble with locating his fastball, his drop in velocity, and his propensity for getting hurt and serving up gopher balls has pushed me past the point of no return.
For now Hughes could be quite serviceable in the pen though where he appeared in 44 of 51 games in 2009.
Given one or two innings of work, I believe Hughes could be an asset to the club. He won't like it, but too bad.
What about Hughes' spot in the rotation you ask? One Michael Pineda, hopefully, coming right up. The righty pitched well for the Trenton Thunder Tuesday night as he continues his comeback from shoulder surgery. If not Pineda, then turns the reins over to Ivan Nova to see if he can get his career back on track. (In another scenario Pineda and Nova could replace Hughes and David Phelps.)
With CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte both showing some chinks in their armor, the team can't afford to carry dead weight. It doesn't get much deader than Phil Hughes starting and Joba Chamberlain coming in from the pen.