For a team like the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates to have the year they are having, it takes contributions from everyone on the roster. Throughout the course of a 162-game season, more than a handful of unexpected guys wind up playing a big role in a teams success.
However the Pittsburgh Pirates may not be where they are today, sitting only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot, without the contributions of rookie Jared Hughes.
When the season began and Hughes made the opening day roster, it looked as if he would be just another right-handed arm out of the pen that could be shuffled back and forth between the majors and minors. But Hughes instead made himself a vital part of a Bucs’ bullpen that has turned in a 3.08 ERA (third in National League) on the season.
You can make a legitimate case that Hughes has been the unsung hero of this Pirates team.
With two scoreless innings of relief Wednesday night against Houston, the 2006 fourth-round pick out of Long Beach State lowered his season ERA to 2.65, which leads all National League rookie relievers.
Hughes has turned in to a reliable arm that Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle can turn to in almost any middle-to-late inning situation.
What separates Hughes from most rookies, and some veteran arms as well, is his aggressiveness. The rookie is aggressive with his sinker and wastes no time attacking opposing hitters, something he learned last season at Triple-A Indianapolis.
“That kind of rubbed off on me,” Hughes said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Michael Sanserino in June. “I got way more aggressive, got the ball down, and that helped me become a better pitcher.”
Off the field, Hughes is a laid back and pleasant guy, but on the mound he’s brought that aggressive demeanor from Indianapolis and the results have been outstanding.
Hughes had a strong beginning of the season, posting a 1.86 ERA in April, 2.45 in both May and June and an outstanding 0.79 mark in July.
As is the case with most rookies, Hughes hit a wall in August and his ERA ballooned to 5.65, but he’s figured things out and has only been scored on once in his last 10 outings. That’s included five straight appearances without allowing a run.
If the Pirates continue to make a run at the postseason, they will have many people to thank for their success.
One of those guys has to be Hughes, who is more proof of the quality of arms the Pirates have coming their way in the near future.