The New York Yankees right-hander, who went 18-8 last season, worked extensively on the pitch at spring training one year ago. A fast regular-season start saw Hughes often bypassing it after the All-Star break, which likely contributed to a second-half record of 7-6.
“I think, maybe, that hurt me looking back on it because I really didn’t keep up with it as much as I would have liked,” Hughes said. “Maybe when fatigue set in, and I really needed that changeup to get me through those games, it just wasn’t there.”
The Yankees, barring a trade, have two open rotation spots behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Hughes heading into Monday’s reporting day for pitchers and catchers. The trio of returning starters are being counted on to help pick up the slack following the offseason retirement of Andy Pettitte.
“Obviously, he’s a guy that we’re going to miss a lot,” Hughes said. “Everytime we needed, like, a big start from a guy, he’s been the guy. That’s the nature of the game. Guys retire.”
Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are among the rotation candidates.
“Things always tend to work themselves out,” Hughes said. “There’s always going to be that one guy that steps up and does a great job.”
Hughes spent time during the winter reflecting on his disappointing finish.
“You have a bad second half, all I thought about was those bad games,” he said. “That’s a tough feeling, but I think it’s good because I had the offseason to think about it. That was fresh in my mind. That’s really something I want to improve upon.”
Hughes has already thrown several times off a mound at the Yankees’ minor league complex under the watchful eyes of new pitching coach Larry Rothschild. And over the upcoming six weeks of spring training, the duo will continue addressing changeup development.
“It will be a focal point,” Hughes said. “And sticking to it no matter what kind of success I have in the beginning.”