Twins right-hander Phil Hughes will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The operation will alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, who adds that GM Terry Ryan says the club expects Hughes to be ready for Spring Training (links to Twitter).
Hughes was already on the disabled list for the foreseeable future due to a femoral fracture above his kneecap that he suffered upon being struck by a line drive, but he’ll now definitively be out for the remainder of the year. The injury puts an exclamation point on a second consecutive disappointing season for Hughes, who has seen his velocity dip since a breakout 2014 campaign in his first year with Minnesota. That season, Hughes pitched to a 3.52 ERA in 209 2/3 innings and set a Major League record with an 11.63 K/BB ratio in the first year of a three-year, $24MM contract he’d signed the previous December. Minnesota rewarded Hughes by locking him up on an even longer-term deal, tacking on three years and $42MM to his existing contract.
Suffice it to say, the Twins will hope for better results than Hughes has delivered the past two seasons. It’s not immediately clear how long this current injury, which will require a portion of Hughes’ rib to be removed, has been impacting his results on the mound, but after averaging better than 92 mph on his heater in the aforementioned 2014 campaign, he’s averaged just 90.6 mph on his fastball in the 2015-16 campaigns. That dip in velocity has likely contributed to Hughes’ diminished results in some capacity, as he’s logged a 4.83 ERA in 214 1/3 innings with just 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings across the past two seasons. Hughes has maintained his pinpoint command (1.2 BB/9 in that time), but his swinging-strike rate has plummeted along with his velocity.
Having just celebrated his 30th birthday four days ago, Hughes is certainly young enough to rebound and contribute to the Twins in the coming years if he can work his way back to health. He’s owed $13.2MM in each of the next three seasons.