Phil Hughes isn’t really in the Twins starting rotation right now, and he’s not exactly in the bullpen, either. So where is the 10-game winner?
By quirk of the calendar, the Twins’ Opening Day starter doesn’t know when he will pitch again, and there is an outside chance it won’t be this year.
“I’m not closing any doors on what he might and might not do from here on out,” manager Paul Molitor said. “He’s not slotted in the rotation at this point,” at least through the end of the homestand next Thursday.
That’s because, after missing five weeks due to a bulging disc in his lower back, Hughes had trouble with his control during a so-so three-inning start against the Tigers on Tuesday, giving up three runs and requiring 65 pitches to get nine outs. With every victory critical, Molitor is hesitant to put Hughes back on the mound until he has thrown more innings to get his control back — but with minor league seasons over, there is no place to send him.
“It makes it difficult,” Molitor said. “I tried to make it fairly clear to him, at least in the short term, and he was fine with it. He understood.
“We have to see how other people respond over the next four or five days, too. Some of that might play into when and if he gets another shot to go out there.”
Molitor says he plans to send Hughes to the bullpen this weekend, in case a situation comes up in which the veteran could get a few innings in. After that, though, he is unlikely to pitch until next weekend at Detroit at the earliest, the manager said.
Hughes’ situation means the Twins are more likely to start rookie Tyler Duffey, despite mild concern over his innings count, which stands at 177 this year. Duffey will start Sunday against the Angels, Molitor said.
“We’re not as worried about him right now. He’s holding up pretty well,” General Manager Terry Ryan said of Duffey. As for Hughes, “I’m not going to put too much stock in him pitching out of the ’pen, because it may change and it may change quick. It’s going to be a little fluid here, I suspect.”
Plenty of options
The Angels had 37 players in uniform Thursday, the Twins 34. Some teams have as few as 30 players right now, and the Mets are carrying 38.
Should there be limits on September call-ups?
“That discussion comes up every fall in [MLB] meetings, and it’s a discussion that’s been ongoing for about 22 years,” Ryan said. “Some people don’t think it’s fair.”
It’s hard on managers, too, Molitor said. He went over reports on all 37 Angels, “and it’s a lot to prepare for.”
Players, and their union, want as many called up in September, when active rosters can expand to 40, as possible. Some teams, such as the Twins, prefer to limit the numbers, Molitor said, partly to make the call-up a reward and partly for service-time considerations.
Ryan’s preference? “I would be fine with 30, if we’re going to expand. That would give you an extra catcher, infielder, outfielder and two extra pitchers,” he said. “I think everyone wants [teams to have] the same number.”
• Tickets to an AL wild-card game and the Division Series go on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 30, only at twinsbaseball.com. The Oct. 6 wild-card game will only be at Target Field if the Twins finish with the best record among non-division winners.
• MLB Network is miking Brian Dozier and Kurt Suzuki this weekend, in order to produce a behind-the-scenes program, “Mission: October.”
The Twins-centered episode will be on at 7 p.m. Monday on Fox Sports 1.