Twins-White Sox Preview
After struggling at homer-friendly Yankee Stadium, Phil Hughes said being able to play at Target Field "was one small factor" in his decision to sign with the Minnesota Twins.
He’ll have to wait until next week to take the mound in Minneapolis, but his Twins debut will come at a ballpark where he’s pitched very well in his career.
The Twins look to avoid getting swept Thursday in their season-opening three-game series against the Chicago White Sox, who will also start a pitcher that received a nice contract in the offseason in Jose Quintana.
Hughes had a terrible final season with New York, going 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA, but his home-road splits most likely had an influence on Minnesota’s decision to sign the former 18-game winner to a three-year, $24 million contract.
The right-hander pitched 177 innings at Yankee Stadium over the last two seasons and gave up 39 home runs. His road numbers over that span: 20 homers allowed in 160 innings.
Fewer home runs allowed was not the only difference. Hughes went 1-10 with a 6.32 ERA in 17 appearances in New York in 2013 compared to 3-4 with a 3.88 ERA in 13 away from home.
"It’s just a different atmosphere over here," he said. "… It’s kind of nice to hit the reset button. … I need to worry about myself first and not use the stadium or my environment as a crutch."
Hughes has a 1.53 ERA in 17 2-3 innings at U.S. Cellular Field with just one homer allowed. His 1.34 ERA in 11 games against the White Sox is his best versus any team he’s faced more than twice.
Hughes had a 4.74 ERA and gave up two home runs in 19 spring innings.
"The ball’s coming out of his hand real good," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "His velocity is good. His arm strength is good."
Hughes will be opposed by Quintana, who agreed to a $21 million, five-year contract last week after going 9-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 33 starts in 2013.
The left-hander had 164 strikeouts in 200 innings and a major league-leading 17 no-decisions in his first full season in the majors. Three of the no-decisions came after he pitched at least seven scoreless innings.
Quintana went 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 25 appearances in 2012.
"Jose quickly has established himself as a quality major league starting pitcher … and we expect him to be an important piece of our rotation for the foreseeable future," general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. "… We are excited to be able to reward him for what he has accomplished thus far in his career."
Quintana was 0-2 with a 9.15 ERA in his first four starts against the Twins before winning the last two behind a 2.13 ERA.
Joe Mauer is 6 for 12 with two homers against him, while Josh Willingham is 6 for 13 and has homered twice.
Chicago beat the Twins 5-3 on Monday and scored twice in the ninth inning Wednesday to send the game into extras before coming away with a 7-6 win in 11.
"By coming back and then you win later, I don’t know how many times we did that last year, not many," manager Robin Ventura said. "You end up doing something that feels new and feels fresh for these guys."
The White Sox haven’t opened with three straight wins since 1992.