The Minnesota Twins' surprising 36-30 record has helped mask some of the issues facing the team – such as the struggles of pitcher Phil Hughes.
Last season Hughes was the anchor of the Twins starting rotation. He finished 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 210 innings. Hughes also set a major league record with a strikeout-to-walk ratio that was better than 11:1.
But things haven't come as easily for the right-hander in 2015. So far, he is 4-6 with a 4.76 ERA in 82 2/3 innings.
Following Hughes' last start in Texas, 1500 ESPN's Derek Wetmore wrote that it's not just a slow start anymore, it's actually becoming a concern. Wetmore notes that Hughes is roughly on the same pace he was in 2012 when he gave up a career-worst 35 home runs.
Hughes' struggles might be related to a dip in velocity.
The Pioneer Press notes that in recent seasons Hughes' fastball has been in the 92-93 MPH range, but hasn't been at that level this year, and during his last start in Texas on Sunday he struggled to hit 90.
"He's very frustrated," Twins pitching coach Neil Allen told the newspaper. "He can't compete the way he'd like to compete, so he's a little discouraged right now."
Last week Hughes acknowledged to Twins Daily that the dip in velocity has changed the way he is pitching.
"I have thrown a lot more [two-seamers] probably because I am trying to find something else to go until I get my fastball back to where it needs to be," Hughes said. "I'm trying to make some adjustments on the fly."
Hughes will get the start on Friday when the Twins open a weekend series with the Chicago Cubs at Target Field.