It took Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild just 10 pitches to diagnose a mechanical flaw in David Huff's delivery earlier this season.
Huff, who was claimed by the Yankees on May 25 after being designated for assignment by the Indians, had been struggling with his command. The lefthander made his Yankees debut against the Rays on May 26, allowing a run on a hit and two walks in one inning.
The next day Huff, 29, threw a 10-pitch bullpen session in front of Rothschild at Citi Field and the veteran pitching coach immediately offered a suggestion.
"He noticed that I was kind of forcing a high three-quarter arm slot," Huff said before last night's game against the White Sox. "He basically told me, 'Let it come out like an athletic three-quarter.' My problem was the fastball was cutting and sinking. There wasn't any consistency. It was kind of just all over the place. Once I dropped down to the three-quarter [slot], everything was right to the glove and it had some good life to it."
It wasn't a major adjustment -- Huff demonstrated the change by dropping his arm just a few inches -- but he instantly felt better. He didn't know where he'd display the refined mechanics, however, as he was designated for assignment on May 28 to accommodate Joba Chamberlain's return from the disabled list.
"When I got DFA'd I was kind of bummed out," Huff said. "But when I was making the decision on whether or not to stay after I cleared, it was one of those situations where I didn't know the situation anywhere else, but I knew what I was getting myself into here."
Huff decided to stay with the Yankees organization based on two "gentlemen's agreements" with GM Brian Cashman. Huff asked to be moved if he wasn't in the team's plans later in the season and for the opportunity to throw an extended bullpen session for Rothschild before joining Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Cashman accepted both conditions, and Huff threw a lengthier bullpen session in front of Rothschild on June 3 at Yankee Stadium.
"We just talked about some things -- what he had done through the years, what worked and didn't," Rothschild said. "We just came up with a game plan when he got sent down to work on."
In 13 appearances at Triple-A, Huff posted an impressive 4.92 strikeouts/walks ratio. He was recalled by the Yankees on Aug. 15 and has a 0.60 ERA in five appearances.
"He's been aggressive," Rothschild said. "He's got an arsenal that you can get people out with."
Huff's success and the struggles of starter Phil Hughes (5.71 ERA since the All-Star break) led to manager Joe Girardi's announcement after last night's game that Huff will take Hughes' spot in the rotation Saturday against the Red Sox.
"I'm just going to continue to put in the work," Huff said. "Whether it's out of the bullpen or starting, that's totally up to Joe. As far as I know, I'm going to stay in the bullpen and as soon as that phone rings and he needs me I'm going to do whatever I can to be ready for that and get it done."