Phil Hughes wasn't lights out but he turned in a good outing tonight, allowing three hits and no runs -- with two strikeouts and one walk -- in four innings. A bad outing by Joba Chamberlain tomorrow in Clearwater against the Phillies will likely eliminate him from consideration for the fifth spot, if that hasn't happened already, and by tomorrow night this thing could be down to Hughes and Alfredo Aceves.
Hughes went even more with his changeup tonight than in his previous start and said his confidence in the pitch has increased in each outing.
"A lot more confident," Hughes said. "There were points last year where I would never even think about throwinga changeup and now I feel like it’s a pretty effective pitch for me and I’m getting the results for me. It’s not like it’s getting barreled up all over the field. I’m able to get some ground balls and see that it is a good pitch for me and every time that happens I get more confidence in it and the ability to throw it more."
Hughes also feels he's turning into a four-pitch pitcher.
"Now I even have confidence in four which is big for me," Hughes said. "I threw some good cutters tonight, one was a base hit on a 1-0, the bouncer to Jeter that he beat out. But I’ll take that all day long. Just having confidence in that pitch, having confidence in my changeup and obviously fastball, curveball is kind of what will always be there."
He added later: "The biggest thing about starting is going after and attacking guys three, four times through the order in different ways and I feel like I can do that a lot better now because I have four pitches that I feel like I can throw for strikes any time I want so I have those options. Where before I didn’t have a cutter, a changeup I rarely threw and I was fastball, curveball trying to mix up the way I attacked hitters and it just didn’t work because two pitches doesn’t do that."