Twins assistant General Manager Rob Antony knows the contract shows just strongly the Twins feel about Hughes rediscovering his winning ways.
“We believed he was going to be a good pitcher,” Antony said. “and we weren’t interested in signing him for one year where he could prove he could pitch and then go sign somewhere else next year.”
There were 142 home runs hit in Target Field last season, 74 by opponents. That was 1.75 a game, the second-fewest in the American League.
There were 167 homers hit in Yankee Stadium last season, the sixth most in the AL. Righthander Mike Pelfrey has joked, “Sometimes you have to hit it twice to get it out of Target Field.”
Target Field might be a better fit for Hughes, historically a fly-ball pitcher. But he knows he has to work on his game, too. He has decided to junk his slider and work on sharpening his curveball and cut fastball. Beware: Hughes is a professional tinkerer. A recent story on Baseball Prospectus’ website counts this decision as the 10th time Hughes has activated or deactivated a pitch in his career.
Health could factor in as well. Hughes was hampered by a sore back last year during spring training and felt he never got his legs under him. He is fully healthy this spring and has looked sharp in two starts, including three scoreless innings against Toronto on Saturday in Dunedin.
“Last year I think I got caught up in making too many adjustments,” Hughes said. “That wasn’t me. I felt like I was constantly trying to figure something out on the fly. But right now I feel like I’m pretty close as far what I want to do going into the season. If I can command both sides of the plate with my fastball and use my curveball that is who I am. So that is what I’m trying to get back to.”
Hughes warned fans of what’s coming on Jan. 23 when he appeared at the Diamond Awards at Target Field and said, “Sometimes you miss bats… and sometimes it gets hit a long ways!”
The crowd roared at the self-deprecating humor, which might not go over as well in New York.
Hughes, from Mission, Viejo, Calif., also is a hockey fan, watching Anaheim Ducks games as a youth then Tampa Bay Lightning games while training with the Yankees in Tampa. Now he’s looking forward to checking out Wild games.
Just one more reason to believe he will be a good fit with his new club.
“I think all the things they look for in a player, when they bring guys into the clubhouse, he’s met all those qualifications,” Perkins said. “We’ve been here for 3½ weeks and he fits in here like he’s been here for six years.”