Offseason acquisition Phil Hughes was just 4-14 for the Yankees last year, but he has kept the Twins afloat this season. They are 7-0 in his past seven starts, and he has a 1.94 ERA in that span. He hasn’t walked a batter since April 20. Hughes returns to his former stadium for a showdown in the Bronx on Sunday. In advance of that, he chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand about his strong season, his former team and an odd game he likes to play.
Q OK, first off: Glen Perkins told me I need to ask you about the name game. What is it, exactly?
A He keeps selling me out. … Basically, you get someone who is walking away, either out of a room or around a corner, and you call their name and throw your voice a little. Obviously they’ll turn around, and look for who’s calling them and you play it off and keep on with the conversation you’re having.
Q What’s your best one?
A Dan Marino was in spring training last year. I didn’t get him personally, but someone else did. It’s childish, but it’s pretty hilarious. … There are a few other good ones, but I can’t divulge them yet. I’m still in the process of getting them constantly, and if they happen to read this the secret will be out.
Q Have you ever thought of the possibility that you might not walk anybody ever again in your life?
A (Laughs). No, I don’t think about that. I’ve come very close the last couple times out. It’s just one of those weird things where I feel like I’m throwing a lot of strikes, and I’m able to stay out of hitters’ counts, and those few three-ball counts, I’ve been able to get out of them.
Q Everybody has been asking you about going back to New York. Anybody in that lineup you are particularly looking forward to facing?
A I’d say Brett Gardner. We were close when I was in New York. It’s always weird facing guys you’ve been teammates with for a long time and then they’re on the other side.
Q SI.com had a story about a “career rebirth” for you. Are people forgetting already that you had two pretty good seasons recently?
A It’s kind of one of those things. When I’ve been good, I’ve been OK. When I’ve been bad, I’ve been really bad. When you mold those two things together, it doesn’t look all that pretty. … People are going to remember what you did last, and that’s the nature of how our brains work. It’s unfortunate that I’ll be kind of remembered as a failure in New York, but I think my parents will tell you differently.
Q The ballpark in New York did you no favors. Have there been any balls at Target Field you thought were going to be home runs that stayed in the park?
A Yes. Especially to right field. I remember the first time we played Detroit, I threw seven innings and gave up a couple runs. I can recall three balls that for sure would have been home runs at Yankee Stadium. I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of the fifth inning. That’s been the only [time] where I said, “Wow, this ballpark really makes a difference.”