There were 142 home runs hit in Target Field last season, 74 by opponents and 68 by the Twins. That’s 1.75 a game — the second fewest in the American League.
Those are friendly confines for a fly ball pitcher, like new Twins righthander Phil Hughes. And he didn’t ignore that fact when he met with the media on Thursday after signing a three-year, $24 million contract. But he also knows he can’t just strut to the mound and forget the 4-14 record he put up last season, including 1-10 at Yankee Stadium. There were 167 homers hit in Yankee Stadium last season, the sixth most in the AL but only about one a week more than at Target Field.
Hughes, just 27, knows he has work to do.
“I don’t think I’m a finished product,’’ he said. “I think I can still get better, and I’m not going to come here and hope the ballpark creates better numbers for me. I know I have to do things better on my end, and I’m excited for the opportunity to do that here.’’
The Twins hope Hughes resembles the pitcher who won 18 games in 2010 and 16 in 2012. He can throw a fastball 95 miles per hour, but it hasn’t had much movement, and when left up in the zone it led to 24 home runs in just 145 ⅔ innings last season. He could also sharpen his breaking ball and pitch more down in the zone.
Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson has had success with helping pitchers with mechanics, and Hughes said Thursday that he’s looking forward to picking Anderson’s brain.
“He had a tough year with the Yankees and we’re hoping a change of scenery and a change of venues will help,’’ Twins GM Terry Ryan said. “I hope in our best wishes it could be like [Francisco] Liriano leaving the Twins and going to Pittsburgh for a change of scenery. It would be nice in this instance.’’
Hughes wondered if all he would get would be one-year offers. But the Twins showed their faith in him with a three-year deal. The contract includes $1 million in innings bonuses — $250,000 if he pitches 180 innings, $250,000 at 195 innings and $500,000 at 210 innings.
“I certainly thought one year was going to be an option,’’ Hughes said, “but the Twins approached me and wanted me here for the long term. It was enticing for sure.’’
It caps a good week for the Twins, who unveiled righthander Ricky Nolasco and his four-year, $49 million deal onTuesday. Ryan said the Twins are still interested in pitching as the winter meetings take place next week in Orlando.
Hughes, meanwhile, was headed to the airport to fly to his home in Southern California. But he was debating delaying his trip and taking in the Wild-Blackhawks game.
“Big hockey fan,’’ he said. “I’m a Lightning fan, but I’ll definitely be attending a few Wild games for sure.’’
The Twins designated righthander Liam Hendriks to make room for Hughes on the 40-man roster.