FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Phil Hughes kept giving up homers, and he kept hearing about it from the media in New York.
Now that he’s in a pitcher-friendly stadium in more laid-back Minnesota, those problems should subside.
“It’s just a different atmosphere over here,” the Twins’ right-hander said in a quiet clubhouse. “So far, so good.”
After seven seasons with the Yankees, Hughes signed a $24 million, three-year contract to make Target Field his new home.
“It’s kind of nice to hit the reset button,” he said, on a career that never reached its potential after the Yankees chose him with the 23rd pick of the 2004 draft.
Inconsistency and injuries held him back. So did all those pitches that were re-directed over outfield fences.
In the past two seasons, Hughes allowed 39 homers in 177 innings at home and just 20 in 160 innings on the road.
The difference between his performances last year at Yankee Stadium and other AL parks was remarkable:
—At home: 16 starts, 1-10 record, 6.32 ERA, 17 homers
—On the road: 13 starts, 3-4 record, 3.88 ERA, seven homers.
But Hughes doesn’t place a lot of blame for that discrepancy on a home ballpark with a short fence down the right-field line.
“It was a little bit to do with it,” he said. “I need to worry about myself first and not use the stadium or my environment as a crutch. So for me it was a lot of factors, but the ballpark was one small factor in that decision” to sign with Minnesota.
Before Hughes‘ recent bullpen session at spring training, Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson was curious.
“I asked him what was the deal with the homers over there,” Anderson said. “I said, ‘Is there anything I should watch for in your deliveries?’”
The problem, both agreed, was that when Hughes struggled, he tinkered with his mechanics. He was thinking too much about what to do instead of just taking the mound and doing it.