Oakland, Calif. – Phil Hughes has spent much of the season searching for an answer to why he’s lost the effectiveness that made him such a success with the Twins two years ago. Now the Twins want him to look in a new place: the bullpen.
Kyle Gibson will return from the disabled list on Thursday, manager Paul Molitor announced Monday, and start against the Rays that night. And in order to make room in the rotation, Hughes will transition into a long relief role he hasn’t occupied since 2009 with the Yankees.
“I’ve been our worst starter. You can’t be surprised when something like this goes down,” Hughes said of the decision, which Molitor revealed to him Monday. “I haven’t been right this year. Hopefully a stint in the bullpen will help me regain my aggressiveness.”
Has that been the problem? At 1-7, Hughes leads the AL in losses and his ERA is an ugly 5.74. “If I knew the answer, it would be a different story. I can only figure it out myself,” Hughes said. “Maybe it’s a loss of aggressiveness, a little bit of lack of confidence, and maybe that’s something I can rebound and regain.”
The move is somewhat shocking, given the Twins’ investment — roughly $46 million more owed Hughes between now and 2019 — in the veteran starter.
“We have a five-man rotation, not six, so we had to make a decision,” Molitor said. “Phil was good. He understood. He handled it very professionally. He said he’s going to go out there and try to help us out.”
It’s probably not permanent, of course, given that the Twins already have used nine different starting pitchers this season. Molitor said as much, noting that “in the short term, we want to keep Pat [Dean] in there.” Dean will start Wednesday against the A’s.
Gibson, out since April 22 because of a strained shoulder, threw a bullpen session Monday in Fort Myers and has been cleared to return.
The suite life
The baseball game was merely an hors d’oeuvre for the action at the Oakland Coliseum Complex on Monday; a little more than two hours after it ended, the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder tipped off Game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals just a few feet away at Oracle Arena. And the Twins wanted to be part of it.
At least 20 Twins players attended Monday’s game, one of the sport’s and the Bay Area’s hottest tickets in memory, after some basketball fans among the players realized how conveniently the games were scheduled. Players chipped in — they declined to reveal the amount — and with the help of an agent arranged to rent a suite for the night.
They weren’t the only ones with that idea. Across the arena, many of the A’s were in a private suite as well. But not everyone had the same plan. Assistant General Manager Rob Antony chose not to attend the game. The Stanley Cup Final also started Monday, after all.
“I’d rather watch hockey,” Antony said.
• Trevor Plouffe returned to action Monday — and not as he expected. When Danny Santana was removed because of a hamstring injury in the seventh inning, Plouffe made his first appearance as a pinch-runner since 2011. Plouffe missed four games because of a bruised knee, but Molitor said he expects Plouffe to play Tuesday. Same with Kurt Suzuki, who was briefly dazed by a foul tip in Saturday’s game.
• Kohl Stewart, the Twins’ No. 1 draft pick and fourth overall in 2013, was promoted to Class AA Chattanooga. Stewart, a righthanded pitcher, had a 2.61 ERA in nine starts at Class A Fort Myers and was personally scouted by GM Terry Ryan last week.
• Max Kepler, sidelined by a left groin injury last week, was activated from the disabled list by Class AAA Rochester.