SATURDAY: Hughes has a fracture in his knee and will be out six to eight weeks, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune tweets.
FRIDAY: The Twins have placed right-handers Phil Hughes and Trevor May on the disabled list and, in a pair of corresponding moves, have activated fellow righty Kyle Gibson from the DL and promoted right-hander J.T. Chargois from Triple-A Rochester. Hughes lands on the DL with a left knee contusion suffered upon being struck by a line drive last night against the Marlins, whereas May is suffering from back spasms, per the team. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press first reported Chargois’ promotion.
While the 29-year-old Hughes will technically be placed on the DL due to the knee issue, it’s been more than a full season since Minnesota saw him at his best. Hughes initially signed a three-year, $24MM contract prior to the 2014 season and proceeded to have a breakout year, totaling 209 2/3 innings of 3.52 ERA ball with 7.98 K/9 against 0.69 BB/9. His 11.63 K-to-BB ratio was the best single-season mark posted by a starting pitcher in Major League history, and the Twins saw fit to reward his breakout with an additional three years and $42MM the following December. Hughes has been a different pitcher since that 2014 campaign, however, pitching to a combined 4.83 ERA with 5.4 K/9 against 1.2 BB/9.
Last season, he spent more than a month on the disabled list due to back issues, and his velocity has taken a notable hit in each season since the aforementioned breakout. After averaging better than 92 mph on his heater in 2014, Hughes averaged 90.7 mph in 2015 and has averaged just 90.5 mph in 2016. Whether it’s a dip in velocity, decreased precision from that historic ’14 season or some combination of the two that has led to Hughes’ rapid decline, he hasn’t given the Twins the type of performance they’d hoped upon extending him, and his regression has played a role in the team’s poor start to the 2016 campaign.
Regression from May, too, has plagued the Twins. The former top prospect and starter-turned-setup-man was a genuine weapon for the Twins upon a move from the rotation to the ’pen last season. May, 26, posted a 2.87 ERA in 31 1/3 relief innings for Minnesota last season to go along with a 37-to-8 K/BB ratio. He came out of the gates arguably even better in 2016, recording a 1.89 ERA with a 27-to-8 K/BB ratio through his first 19 innings, but he’s become exceptionally homer prone as of late, leading to dreadful results. Since May 13, the right-hander has been tagged for four homers in just 7 2/3 innings, resulting in a ghastly 16.43 ERA. All told, May has an unsightly 6.08 ERA in 26 2/3 innings this season. While homers have been the primary reason — his xFIP, which normalizes homer-to-flyball ratio, is a perfectly palatable 3.31 — it’s possible that May’s back spasms have prevented him from finishing pitches.
In Chargois, the Twins are promoting one of their most intriguing bullpen prospects. The former second-round pick’s journey to the Majors was slowed by Tommy John surgery, but he brings with him a fastball that can reach triple-digit velocity ratings and a highly impressive resume between Double-A and Triple-A. Chargois has totaled 24 innings between those two levels this season and posted a 1.12 ERA with a 34-to-9 K/BB ratio. Baseball America rated him 15th among Twins farmhands this offseason, calling more of a pitcher than a thrower in spite of his blistering velocity and offering some praise for his slider and changeup as well.
Gibson, 28, was rocked in his first four starts of the season and has been on the shelf since mid-April. If he’s healthy enough to resemble the 2015 version of himself — 3.84 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 53.4 percent ground-ball rate — he’d be a boon to a Twins rotation that ranks last in the Majors in ERA (5.51), as it did in 2013 and 2014.