The cooling off period to get into the clubhouse after Monday’s game at Target Field was long.
The accepted standard that is not enforced but is the general rule is 10 minutes, and Monday’s went well past that mark, if not past 20 minutes.
That alone isn’t all that unusual. Sometimes the players are celebrating a particularly big win, like Matt Magill getting his first career victory on the last road trip. That calls for a beer shower, which can delay the postgame proceedings just a bit.
Other times, it might be that a roster move has been made, and the brass — including Paul Molitor — is busy telling the player and sorting out details for what’s next.
That didn’t seem all that likely on Monday night. Oftentimes, these things are a bit more predictable. Maybe a young player has performed poorly or is simply a part of a numbers crunch. Quite frequently, these moves come after losses, like if a player threw a bunch of pitches and might be swapped out for a fresh arm, or there’s simply deemed to be reason enough for a change.
But none of that really made sense Monday night. Trevor May and Ervin Santana aren’t close enough to a return for any sort of movement there. Miguel Sano hadn’t yet played in the field defensively on his rehab stint, and there isn’t much in the way of immediate help offensively at Triple-A.
And yet, the delay.
Sometimes when there’s a move, we’ll get access to the players first and the manager afterward — the exact opposite order it usually goes. That was also the case on Monday, but again, no guarantees.
Molitor got through his roughly 10-minute postgame session, and as the media prepared to disperse, his voice changed for a second. “I do want to make an announcement postgame here in regards to a move that we’re making. We’re going to designate Phil Hughes for assignment.”
The room was pretty quiet. It was clear Molitor didn’t enjoy delivering the news, neither as part of the group who told Hughes himself or as the one who informed the media minutes later.
In a way, the news was surprising and not at all at the same time. Hughes was in the midst of an especially tough stretch — 6.75 ERA this year, 5.99 over the last three seasons — but it was a testament to how hard he’d worked to come back from not one, but two thoracic outlet syndrome surgeries, but also to what kind of guy he was in the clubhouse.
“I’ve been around Phil a long time,” Molitor said. “He’s worked really hard. He’s been through a lot physically, and has had to endure a lot of rehabbing. We probably saw him at his best his first year over here, and it’s been a tough go for him since then. I thanked him for the effort he’s given me, and for the times he’s taken the ball. I hope something happens in a positive fashion for him moving forward.”
By the time word of Hughes’ situation came to light, many players had already trickled out of the clubhouse. So on Tuesday, Zone Coverage made the rounds to get the goods. Here are the reactions of some selected teammates as news of Hughes’ DFA permeated through the clubhouse and was given a night to settle in their mind:
LHP Zach Duke
“You feel for guys in this situation anytime this happens. Phil is a great guy. He’s going to be missed. I certainly enjoyed being around him. He’s such a professional, and he still has good innings left in him. It’s just unfortunate that his health went through some tough times. I mean who has two thoracic outlets?
“But in all honesty, for him to come back and show you the stuff that he showed this year is really impressive. So I think he still has good days ahead of him. Unfortunately, this is the business and the people up top are going to make the decisions help the team win. We have aspirations to make the postseason. Like Molly said, it was tough to find situations to get Phil innings. Hopefully, he can go somewhere else and get those innings for himself.
OF/DH Robbie Grossman
“That’s the worst part about this business. I’m sad to see him go. He was a good teammate and friend. I hope he gets picked up and gets a chance somewhere else. But that’s the worst part about this business is guys having to move on. He’s had such a great career, but he’s still so young. Hopefully, he catches on somewhere else. It’s a shitty part of the business to find out on TV, and you don’t even know. It’s a tough thing to deal with, but I wish him the best and I’ll be rooting for him.”
CF Byron Buxton
“I’ve been blessed enough to be around Phil the last 3-4 years and just to play side-by-side with him was amazing. He worked hard every day, and he was one of the leaders in here. You could talk to him — he’s quiet — but he’d give you his insight on whatever you may ask. It’s one of those things like you said; it’s a business, but he’s part of the family. It stings a little bit.”
1B/DH Logan Morrison
“It’s tough for me to answer these questions because I didn’t know him that long. But I’ve played against him and know how good of a pitcher he can be. For whatever reason, it wasn’t working out. Hopefully, he can find a new spot and get a fresh start. I look forward to seeing him have some success. He helped me just from some little things.
“He talked to me and said, ‘Hey, you want to get going? Watch film of you facing me.’ That kind of stuff. He’s definitely above all a great person and a teammate. You hate to see guys like that go, but it’s a business, and they deemed that our team is better without him, so we’re going to ride with that.”
RF Max Kepler
“I mean it goes for everyone. I think we all had the same reaction about guys who come and go. You kind of have to prep for it. Then again, some people grow on you, and you miss them in a way. But you have to remind yourself its a business. He’s a great guy. I’ll miss him just as much as I miss the guys who were sent down earlier this year. He was a great guy. Fun to talk to. I wish him the best of luck the rest of the way.”
SP Jake Odorizzi
“I’ve been on teams in the past where a guy like that moves on, and it’s never easy to deal with. I’m relatively new, but I got to know Phil pretty well actually over the short time we were together here — from springtime until now. He’s a good friend, and it’s crappy how everything shook out, especially with the success he had in his career. You can’t predict injuries and you can’t do too much about them. He worked really hard the last couple years to get back from injuries from everything I’ve heard from people around here. Just to see it not come back the way you want it to, I know how tough that is. You see how things had been before that; it’s attainable again. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way, though it doesn’t mean it still can’t.
“But he’s only 31; he’s still got plenty of time to maybe rest a little bit and get back at it, and still pitch a few good years in the big leagues. It’s tough though; he was a big presence in our clubhouse. Guys with 10-plus years of service time don’t really grow on trees. The knowledge he can bring to a lot of the guys on our team, you can’t do it unless you’ve been in situations like that before.
“To get back at this level after one surgery — let alone the same one again — and mentally to have it and then to rehab. You know exactly what the rehab entails, you know the long road it takes to get back. To do it twice is pretty impressive. To have the mentality of getting through it and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Guys like that aren’t on every squad, and it’s hard to lose them. Especially with some of the knowledge he has. He started, he relieved, he pitched for the Yankees, which one of the toughest places to pitch in the league. It was a valuable resource to have him here, and he’ll definitely be missed. I’ll miss having him here every day.”
SP Kyle Gibson
“I texted him and unfortunately I was already heading home from the park when I heard the news. I don’t know if my wife saw it on Fox Sports or MLB or what it was, but I was ready to eat dinner and she asked if I’d heard about Phil. I hadn’t heard it at all. It’s tough. Like you said, the guys in the corner (locker stalls) have the special lockers for a reason. You’ve got a guy who has 10 years in the show.
“For me personally, other than my 10 starts in 2013, we’ve been teammates the whole time. Getting the chance to talk to him about how he goes about his business, watching him work through injuries and doing everything while being a pro the whole time. Handling criticism and a lot of questions about things from a lot of people the right way. I just wanted to text him and thank him and tell him I appreciated everything he’s done for me. It’ll be tough. He’s got a quiet leadership style and personality about him. I don’t know how he was handling the bullpen out there with the guys, but I’m sure he was offering experience from his 2009-10 days with the Yankees. He had a lot of experience in the rotation and bullpen to offer, that’s for sure.
“Part of his text back was that he told me he hoped I understood that all the hard times he gave me were in good fun. It absolutely was. He didn’t have to say that, and I didn’t have to tell him that back. I think that’s what I’ll remember most about being his teammate. He came from an era where as a rookie he probably wasn’t treated as welcomed as maybe I was. He was on a Yankee team that had a lot of veterans. Not that they treated him poorly, but it’s just been different the last 4-5 years in baseball. He treated me with respect all the time, and had a lot of jokes for me.
“Him and Perk had a lot of inside jokes with me and a lot of jabs that were fun. I think that’s what I’ll remember most. The constant looking over my shoulder to see when the next prank would happen, and the constant nicknames and all that stuff all through the locker room. He was always having fun, and that’s what I really wanted to tell him. That’s what I’ll remember from five years of being his teammate. They were just trying to have fun. It’s been different not having Perk around. Those guys started a lot of that stuff with me.”