Inbox: What's the best home for Hughes?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from fans
What do you see Phil Hughes' role being next season? He's been lights-out in the bullpen, and I wonder if there will be a Joba Chamberlain-type debate over where he's best suited.
-- Michael L., Orono, Maine
There almost certainly will be. As Chamberlain has no doubt learned over the past three years, everything can be debated ad nauseum around Yankees Universe thanks to the news media, sports talk radio and the Internet. Hughes even joked a little bit about this earlier in the season, saying he was looking forward to giving everybody a new "Phil debate" to tackle.
The thinking, long-term as well as for 2010, is that Hughes is still a starting pitcher and that the Yankees want to see him develop as such. The amazing part about his breakout season in the setup role is that it happened largely by accident. In Spring Training, nobody could have predicted we'd be looking at the playoff roster considering Hughes as one of the Yankees' top relief weapons.
The original plan was that Hughes would make a few spot starts at the big league level, serve some time in long relief and then head back to Triple-A to continue developing as a starter when the bullpen mix straightened itself out.
That demotion never took place, and instead of honing his craft in the International League, Hughes has tested himself against the best the game has to offer at the big league level and more often than not come away a winner. No matter what role he fills in 2010, the experience he has been able to put under his belt as far as trusting himself and challenging Major League hitters should prove invaluable.
Do you believe that Derek Jeter is really in the MVP race? There is no question he has helped this team, but look at Minnesota's Joe Mauer. Don't you say the media is going overboard with him passing the hit record?
-- Zelig B., Brooklyn
I don't see any reason why Jeter shouldn't merit consideration, and you can say the same for Mark Teixeira. They've both had wonderful seasons for a team that won more games than any other, and that has to count for something.
Here's what manager Joe Girardi said recently about Jeter: "What he's hitting, his defense, his leadership ... All the things it takes to be an MVP, I think he's done them."
Will Jeter and Teixeira overshadow a remarkable season by Mauer, who hits in a way catchers aren't supposed to hit? Maybe not, but we'll see how voters think. If it was like the Hollywood awards, where ballots sometimes factored in past seasons, Jeter would pick up some steam. It's hard to believe that he hasn't won an MVP, having finishing second in 2006 and third in 1998.
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As for Jeter's all-time hit record, no, it wasn't a milestone like 3,000 hits or passing Pete Rose or anything like that. But think of it this way: To be able to say that no one in the illustrious history of that uniform has ever had more hits wearing it than Jeter? That's significant.
As I watch and attend the games, it seems that Robinson Cano is not coming through with men in scoring position. Too many opportunities are missed. I think against the Tigers and the other playoff teams, this could end up costing them. What is your opinion?
-- Victor C., Bronx
It certainly wouldn't help them, put it that way. Despite believing that this is his best all-around season, Cano has been searching all year for a reason why his struggles have continued with runners in scoring position, and if it was as easy as flipping a switch, the team would have done it already.
Your eyes don't deceive -- Cano is hitting .208 (38-for-183) with RISP, compared with .350 (164-for-468) in all other situations. Still, he is not allowing the past to carry into his fresh at-bats, which should give the Yankees some confidence if they see him in that spot during the playoffs.
"Every time I'm in that situation, I just think, 'C'mon, Cano, just do your thing,' " Cano said. "I don't remember if I'm in a slump. I just go by the at-bat and forget about what happened the last game."
Everyone knows Jorge Posada isn't getting younger. Could we see the day, perhaps in 2011, when he will be a full-time DH?
-- Jesse S., Northumberland, Pa.
I think Posada could be a DH eventually, but don't ask him that question. He insists that he will continue to catch throughout the remainder of his contract, and the Yankees don't have any reason right now to push him out from behind the plate. That was one of the dangers of signing a then-36-year-old catcher to a four-year deal, knowing that the likelihood of him finishing it as a catcher is slim.
Since it wasn't as though the Yankees were going to watch Posada go across town to the Mets after 2007, they did the deal and will have to find a way to make it work. One thought at the time was that Posada could eventually move to first base, but that was before Mark Teixeira replaced Jason Giambi there and made the position his own for years to come. Instead, expect to see Posada increase his time as a DH as time goes on.
Wouldn't it have been better to limit Chamberlain's innings in April and May, and then let him build strength?
-- Tom D., Bradenton, Fla.
Girardi said that the Yankees considered this, along with a multitude of scenarios to best handle Chamberlain without harming his future. The thought was that it would be better to let Chamberlain pitch as a full-on starter in the early going and then scale back his innings in September, when the expanded rosters would allow more arms to soak up outs behind Chamberlain's shorter efforts.
The one luxury that the Yankees were fortunate to have was a large lead over the Red Sox to enjoy as a cushion in September. It would have been much more stressful and hard to explain a three-inning start if Chamberlain was pitching in a tight pennant race.
For the first time in over a year, we saw Ian Kennedy pitch. What do you think are the plans for him in 2010 and beyond?
-- Alex L., Yardley, Pa.
What a great comeback story for Kennedy, to return from an aneurysm under his right armpit and not only pitch in the big leagues, but make his debut with a scoreless -- if stressful -- inning against the Angels in a big game. That should give him a real good taste as he heads off to the Arizona Fall League to build up his innings count. The Yankees still see Kennedy as a prospect who can help them down the line, and it wouldn't be out of the question to say he could one day crack the rotation, probably as a back-end guy. For right now, every step he makes coming back is in the right direction.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.