Twins designate pitcher Phil Hughes for assignment

Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins designated pitcher Phil Hughes for assignment on Monday night, an expensive decision to dump the right-hander after continued struggles recovering from rib surgeries.

Hughes, who is making $13.2 million this season and due the same salary in 2019, has a 6.75 ERA in 12 innings. He was dropped from the rotation after two starts and made five relief appearances. Twins manager Paul Molitor said Hughes was not asked to accept a minor league demotion.

“He’s worked really hard. He’s been through a lot physically. He’s had to endure a lot of rehabs. We probably saw him at his best his first year over here. It’s been a tough road for him since then,” Molitor said. “I thanked him for the effort that he’s given me and the times he’s taken the ball, and I hope something happens in a positive fashion for him moving forward.”

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Since the move to the bullpen, Molitor has not found many comfortable opportunities to use the 31-year-old. Eight of Minnesota’s last 10 games have been decided by one or two runs.

“I guess it was somewhat comparable to almost a Rule 5 situation where you’re trying to find the right spots, and they were few and far between,” Molitor said.

After becoming a free agent and leaving the New York Yankees, who drafted him in the first round in 2004, Hughes signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Twins.

Hughes went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts with 186 strikeouts in 209 2/3 innings in 2014. That got him a new deal that winter that added three years and $42 million in additional guaranteed money, nearly half of which the Twins are still on the hook for.

Hughes regressed some in 2015, dealing with some back trouble. Then in June 2016 he broke his left leg after being hit by a batted ball. While on the disabled list, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and had his first surgery to remove a rib to address shoulder weakness he was experiencing.

The comeback in 2017 didn’t go well, and he returned to the disabled list in May with shoulder discomfort. After five relief appearances upon his return, he was shelved again in mid-July and sent for a second thoracic outlet syndrome procedure. He complained of arm fatigue and numbness in his hand after he pitched.

Since 2016, Hughes is 5-10 with a 5.99 ERA with 162 hits allowed in 124 2/3 innings. If he’s not claimed off waivers by another club, which would be highly unlikely given his remaining salary, the Twins have a week to trade him or release him.