DETROIT -- The Twins offered Phil Hughes a chance to retire one more batter this season and earn a $500,000 bonus. But "it just didn't feel right," he decided.
A sudden eighth-inning rainstorm on Wednesday cost Hughes a chance to pitch the ninth inning, and his season ended after pitching 209 2/3 innings -- or one out short of his half-million-dollar bonus for 210 innings. So on Thursday, after consulting with owner Jim Pohlad and team president Dave St. Peter, general manager Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire offered to let their righthanded ace pitch to a batter or two this weekend out of the bullpen, to get one final out. Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement doesn't allow teams to award incentive bonuses for getting "close enough."
"We called him in today -- this organization feels we should do that, that he's earned every bit of it," Gardenhire said. "He thought about it and said, 'I just don't feel it.' He said, 'I feel like my arm's had enough, I don't want to risk an injury.' "
That's because Hughes, who earned $8 million this season, plus $250,000 bonuses for surpassing 180 and 195 innings, has two more years left on his $24 million contract.
"Ownership and [Ryan] extended the offer to let me throw out of the bullpen, and I just didn't feel it was right," said Hughes, who had never pitched more than 191 innings before. "I'm surprised they extended that offer to me; that was very generous. It says a lot about this organization. But I own my 100 percent health to this organization over the next two years, and I'm not going to do anything to risk that. ... For whatever reason, it's just not meant to be."
Ryan said he was impressed by the decision. "He decided after a little thought, he just wasn't going to do it. So I respect that," Ryan said. "It is a decision that would be difficult to make if you're a player."
If you're superstitious, though, maybe there's reason to be wary. Hughes would have had one more start this season, but a rainout on Sept. 12 pushed the rotation back by a day and cost him his chance to pitch in the season finale on Sunday. He would have pitched the ninth inning on Wednesday, but for a small rain cell that interrupted the game just long enough to make the Twins unwilling to let him continue. "That rain was situated right around downtown Minneapolis," marveled Ryan. "It wasn't hardly raining anywhere else."
The prospect of pitching without his normal rest and out of his normal routine, with an arm tired from a long season, just to get one out was just too much risk, Hughes decided. "I feel good," he said, "and that's part of the reason I don't want to push the envelope as well." He also could have jeopardized the major-league record he set this season: the 11.625 strikeout-to-walk ratio, highest in history. One walk would have lost the record.
Hughes said the decision was his alone, "and it wasn't a tough call." His agent Nez Balelo -- who would have collected a 4 percent commission, or $20,000 -- agreed with his choice, and Hughes said he doesn't believe the MLB Players Association will mind him passing up the cash, either. "It's my call, my career and my health," he said. "And it's not worth it to me."
He was surprised by the attention his contract got, and said he felt gratified that fans rallied to his cause, insisting on Twitter that he be paid the bonus. "That was very kind of them to appreciate what I've done this year," Hughes said. "You don't really expect people to want professional athletes to get paid more money."
Meanwhile, though Hughes won't be part of it, the Twins and Tigers play a rather important game tonight. Important to the Tigers, anyway, who can clinch at least a tie for the AL Central crown with a victory and a Royals loss in Chicago. It's reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer against Twins rookie Trevor May. Eduardo Escobar moves to third base to replace Trevor Plouffe. Here are tonight's lineups for the 6:05 p.m. start:
V. Martinez DH
J.D. Martinez LF