Mo supporting embattled Hughes
Closer says he will offer reliever words of encouragement
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera didn't know exactly when, and he wasn't willing to divulge the details with the hoards of media members crowded around his locker. But the All-Star closer plans on talking with reliever Phil Hughes, giving him words of encouragement, and perhaps more, in the wake of Hughes' recent struggles in his first postseason out of the bullpen.
"I don't have to tell you guys [what will be said], but definitely I will talk to him," Rivera said. "He will be fine. I don't expect miracles, but he's trying hard. He's trying to do what he's capable of doing."
Hughes blossomed out of the bullpen right after he was bumped from the Yankees' starting rotation in June, posting a 1.40 ERA in 44 appearances. But it's been a different story in the postseason, as Hughes has allowed nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, posting a 5.79 ERA that pitching coach Dave Eiland says is largely the result of an old mechanical problem resurfacing.
"[It's] just a minor adjustment, and he knows it," Eiland said prior to New York's optional workout on Friday afternoon. "It's just staying within yourself -- just trust it and not trying to make that good stuff you have even better. Because you do that [and] you get a little jumpy, you get a little quick through your delivery and you affect your command. And that's what is happening."
Rivera, a veteran of 14 postseasons, says he feels now is the right time to talk with Hughes.
"I haven't talked to him all year, but he's been so great," Rivera said. "But now, I don't want him to change anything -- just believe."
Hughes' most recent outing -- in the seventh inning of Game 5 -- might have been his most disappointing yet. He entered the game in relief of Damaso Marte, and after walking Torii Hunter on five pitches, Hughes hung a 1-2 fastball to Vladimir Guerrero. The free-swinging Guerrero sent the belt-high pitch -- which was supposed to be high and inside -- into the outfield for a critical game-tying single. The next batter, Kendry Morales, singled in Hunter for the go-ahead run.
"[It's] just one pitch here, one pitch there," Rivera said. "Overall, he's been great. You just have to make sure when you throw your pitches, you got to go to the spot."
If Hughes can get back on track and successfully hand the ball off to Rivera, the Yankees -- and their opponents -- know what's coming next.
Rivera has been his usual All-Star self in the postseason, tossing 8 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing five hits and holding opponents to a .161 batting average.
"This is his time," Eiland said. "This is when he's at his best."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.