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A.J. Burnett (1–1, 5.57 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (0–0, 0.00)

Let's face facts, the Yankees could've played last night. It wasn't raining that hard. If the game had started, they would've gotten it in. Luckily, for the Yanks, before the start of the game it's up to the home team to make the decision, and they pulled the plug.

Anyway, tonight, we get to see Phil Hughes make his major league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays and A.J. Burnett. Regretfully, I won’t be able to make the game, but I’ll be watching with a queasy stomach as the future of the franchise takes the hill.

This really is unprecedented territory for me as a Yankee fan. The last home-grown prospect to make a lasting impact on the rotation was Wang. Before Wang, it was Andy Pettitte in 1995. Neither of those guys was as highly touted (possibly over-hyped) as Hughes. The only pitcher who came close to this type of noise in the minors was Brien Taylor, and that was during the darkest days before the dawn. I can’t even begin to tell you what Hughes’ arrival means to this team, if he turns out to be this year’s Liriano (minus the Tommy John surgery, of course). But it is still a big if.

After about 7:05 p.m. tonight, doubters out there won’t be able to say, “He’s never thrown a pitch in the majors.” What will they be saying? “See, he’s got nothing.” Or, “It was only one game.”

My prediction: I don’t know how he’ll do tonight. He doesn’t have a cake matchup to welcome him to the league like Dice K did. He’s facing a legit lineup. He was called up in the middle of a bad stretch, and he’s being called upon to end a 5–game losing streak. That’s a lot to stack on the shoulders of a 20 year-old. That being said, I think he picks up his first win tonight. I think he strikes out more than one per inning, and I think he sticks with the big team from here on out.

Come playoff time, he’ll get a start, and he and Wang will be the front end of this rotation for years to come. He doesn’t depend on a gimmick motion. He has picture perfect mechanics, precision control, and 3 pitches he can throw for strikes at any time (4 if you count the slider he rarely uses). Guys who can put all of that together with a mid-nineties fast ball and a little bit of “I’m better than you, and I know it,” attitude aren’t the ones that get to the bigs and can’t hack it.

For more on Phil Hughes, watch tonight’s friggin game. (or go here.)

by Brian on Apr 26 2007