07/20/2009 3:16 PM ET
Phil Hughes: The race is on
Yankees pitcher has been boon to bullpen
Our team so far has played pretty well this season. We've had some rough stretches -- rough stretches that every team goes through during a year -- but we're right there.
To be in the thick of things, especially considering what we went through at the beginning of the season with injuries, is pretty good, I think. We're right where we want to be and we want to keep playing well the rest of the year.
Our offense is great at times, and, when we have our pitching going, we're real tough to beat. It seems like we can still win even when everything is not clicking at the same time. We seem to be able to pick one another up, but the pitching will continue to be important.
Another key for us has been the outstanding play of some of the new players we brought in during the offseason. Guys like C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher have all played great, and they've easily incorporated themselves into the clubhouse. C.C. and A.J. have really aided the top of our rotation, which is important.
I wasn't concerned when such great veteran pitchers were acquired during the offseason. I was never a guy who was sitting back and being bitter. I knew my performance would set the table for what would happen to me this season.
To me, it wasn't going to be about who we got. I knew going to Spring Training I could start the year at Triple-A, but I also knew that I needed to pitch well and keep working hard.
And I got that opportunity before April was even over. I came up after the injury to Chien-Ming Wang, and I had the chance to start seven games. I did what I could, and, when he came back, I was given the opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen.
I've been grateful for the chance to go to the bullpen because I just want to contribute in any way I can. My role has evolved this year. I've started, I've been a long guy, and I've pitched in a setup role. I feel like I pitch in multiple roles in the pen, and I think I help give the team some good depth.
Phil Hughes, who broke in with the Yankees as a starter in 2007, has settled into a setup role since moving to the bullpen in early June. The 6-foot-5 native of Southern California has allowed just two runs in 21 1/3 innings of relief while striking out 27 batters and lowering his ERA to 3.70.