WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Phil Hughes had a short day Wednesday. But it didn’t feel like it.
Hughes surrendered a home run to George Springer on his first pitch of the day against the Astros and lasted only two innings in the Twins’ 8-4 loss at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The righthander, who pitched five scoreless innings against the Rays on Friday, this time faced 15 batters and allowed nine hits.
“Unfortunately, I had a long bus trip for a very bad outing,” Hughes said of the three-hour trip to the Atlantic coast. “The changeup was real flat, fastballs missed out over the plate. It wasn’t a great showing.”
Hughes’ awful start raised his Grapefruit League ERA to 6.75, and ended most doubt about the outcome. The Twins brought no projected starting position players on the trip, and were facing former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, who had yet to allow a run this spring. The Twins managed to change that status — Ehire Adrianza doubled home a run and Matt Hague collected an RBI single off Keuchel — but couldn’t overcome Houston’s early lead.
“It’s not ideal,” manager Paul Molitor said of the roster mostly devoid of major league regulars. “We’re trying to make good decisions despite the fact that the schedule has not been very favorable. We’ve had a ton of long trips, and so I’ve had to look at that a little more. I generally try to say, ‘Don’t let bus trips prevent you from making the [right] decision about who needs to play,’ but you’re certainly aware of the toll that that takes. I’m trying to find ways to get some people ready without having to make them travel a lot.”
The Astros traveled a lot, just by running the bases. In addition to Springer’s homer, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel smacked a three-run shot off Hughes, and Springer had an RBI double.
“They centered up a lot of balls today, and he got behind, uncharacteristically,” Molitor said. “He didn’t have his curveball. I liked that he kept throwing his changeup, but some were good and some weren’t.”
Like last week, Hughes went to the bullpen after being removed in order to raise his pitch count to 75. But last time it was because he needed only 57 pitches to get through five innings; on Wednesday, 57 pitches got him through only two innings, so Molitor wanted him to take a breather before resuming.