Pirates Notebook: Relief role perfect fit for newcomer Hughes
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Once Jared Hughes got the green light to rear back and let it go, he found his comfort zone on the pitcher's mound.
Hughes, 26, was a starter when he began this season in Class AA Altoona, but went 3-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 11 starts. He was promoted to Class AAA Indianapolis in June, but as a reliever. In that role, concerns about efficiency and pitch count mattered less.
"It was, who cares about pitches, just get guys out," Hughes said.
"Then, I was able to use my other pitches, get deeper into counts and try to strike guys out."
In 35 appearances with Indianapolis, Hughes struck out 45 in 422/3 innings and had a 2.11 ERA. He has maintained that success since joining the Pirates, albeit in a small sampling of 22/3 scoreless innings over two appearances before Saturday night.
"It's been fun to watch," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The two outings he's been out there so far, you see the ball coming out of his hand hot with some sink."
Hughes had pitched out of the bullpen in Altoona in years past, but started 113 of 132 games in the minors before moving to Indianapolis. The shift allowed him to emphasize his sinker and slider, his two best pitches.
"Keep the ball on the ground, because that's my strength," said Hughes of what the Pirates told him when he moved to the bullpen.
Class AAA hitters presented better approaches to their at-bats and would not chase as many pitches out of the zone, forcing Hughes to throw strikes early in the count. He allowed one run on three hits in his final 10 appearances with the Indians, yet said he would not let himself ponder a call-up.
"I tried to just focus on the game at hand and not really worry about what will happen in the future," he said.
"If I play well now, good things will happen in the future. If I worry about the future, then I won't play well now."
In his spare time, Hughes works at youth camps in a batting cage near Manhattan Beach, Calif., close to his home in Alisa Viejo.
He attended Long Beach State before the Pirates selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.
When not working on baseball, he surfs and body-boards.
Hurdle's Colorado Rockies had Monday, Sept. 10, 2001 off before beginning a series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Hurdle said he was returning from the gym the morning of that Sept. 11 when he saw the news of the terrorist attacks.
"Within 20 minutes, you realize this is a crisis of the largest order," he said.
"It was paralyzing. It was absolutely paralyzing. The closest thing I can remember to that was Kennedy's assassination when I was a young child, as far as just making you stop, knowing where you were when it happened."
Hurdle said Ross Ohlendorf would make his next scheduled start, but that a spot in the rotation was not automatic.
"This isn't just carte blanche, you're going to get four or five more starts," Hurdle said.
"We've got to see improvement. And he understands that."
Ohlendorf allowed six runs and 10 hits in two-plus innings Friday against the Florida Marlins. He could not command his fastball.
• The Pirates have appealed to the MLB replay committee regarding the home run ruling on Omar Infante's third-inning homer that bounced off Alex Presley's glove Friday night.
First Published September 11, 2011 12:00 am