Q&A with Twins Reliever Dusty Hughes

The Twins entered the 2011 season with their 2010 division championship team largely intact. The major players in their offensive attack are all back and the starting rotation features the same mix of hurlers. It’s in the bullpen where the revolution has occurred.

Closer Joe Nathan of course, has returned after missing all of last season following elbow surgery, but stalwarts Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch have all moved on to greener (think free agent cash) pastures. Here’s where Dusty Hughes comes in.

After appearing in 57 games and posting a 3.83 ERA for lowly Kansas City in 2010, Hughes was unceremoniously put on waivers in January. The Twins, familiar with the lefthander, snapped him up days later. While the early results have been mixed, Hughes hopes he can carve out a role in the team’s revamped bullpen. Hughes and I hooked up for a quick discussion as he geared up to face his old team on Tuesday (he would pick up the win that night).

DZ: You’ve been with the team for a couple of weeks – as well as spring training – what are your impressions so far?

HUGHES: A major league locker room is a major league locker room, but as far as the players go – just everybody that has been here – everything has been established as far as guys know how to win, they’ve been in that situation before, they know what they are doing. It’s great to be a part of; to be able to come to a team that’s been a winning organization – a playoff team. All we have to do is get over the hump and we’ll be right there at the World Series.

DZ: You are on a new team and that’s a little bit of an adjustment, but does it help staying in the same division, knowing the hitters and all that?

HUGHES: I would say it helps a little bit as far as being able to look at old video and stuff, facing old guys I’ve seen before. As far as going into Kansas City today, I’ve seen those guys a lot, Chicago and obviously these guys (the Twins)…I guess you would say it’s a plus for me as far as not having to reestablish myself and seeing all new hitters and trying to figure those guys out. On the other side, they’ve got a plus side too because they’ve seen me. Its equal playing ground, it’s just as far as execution goes. You just gotta get the job done.

DZ: Tonight you play against the Royals, which is your old team; what is that like for you?

HUGHES: It’s going to be different. I actually had breakfast with a couple of the guys this morning – old friends I played with for seven or eight years. It’s going to be different – I’d say emotional, but it’s going to weird seeing the royal blue over there and me in navy blue. It’s definitely a good thing for me being over here, I really enjoy being on the team; just have to move on – I was with the Royals and now I am a Twin.

DZ: Are any of your new teammates asking you for tips or inside information about the Royals?

HUGHES: No, none yet, but I’m sure they’ll come to me as the day goes by today and – you know – and into tomorrow and obviously throughout the season (but) as far as today goes, nothing yet.

DZ: You had a pretty solid year last year – I looked at your numbers – were you surprised you were put on waivers?

HUGHES: I was surprised in a way, but in a way no. As far as their team goes they are kind of moving into a direction that’s younger. For that team, I’m older. I am 28-years-old and those guys are 22 or 23. For the guy that they signed – Jeff Francis – that took my roster spot, it was a good signing for them – he’s a good pitcher. He’s pitched in a tough park in Colorado, now he’s in Kansas City and he’s a good lefty, good starter. He took my spot and I think it was kind of a blessing in disguise for me to be able to come to this organization and have a chance to pitch.

DZ: Where were you when you found out the Twins had picked you up?

HUGHES: I was actually playing catch out in the front yard with my buddy that I throw with. I got the phone call and my wife told me to run inside. I was really exciting, it was a crazy phone call because they told me they claimed me off waivers and asked me to come to TwinsFest in the same phone call. That was kind of exciting; it was a crazy 48 hours for me.

DZ: Being an athlete and not being on a team; it had to be a relief just to know you were on somebody’s roster.

HUGHES: I was actually talking about that today with someone else. For those three or four days, not knowing what was going on – just knowing an answer is good – it’s something – but not knowing for a couple of days there is definitely frustrating. But, being at home like that with my family definitely helped me out. I had a three month old at that time and that definitely makes it a lot easier as far as distracting yourself.

DZ: You’re in a bullpen that has a lot of new faces, a lot of roles up for grabs, it has to be good to know that you are going to have a chance to carve out your niche.

HUGHES: As far as the roles go, I think some of them have already been established. I feel like I can create my own role in the sense that I’ll maybe come in a tough spot – a lefty on lefty situation – late in the game or even early in the game. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I am getting an opportunity to pitch and help the team…that is big to me.

4 Responses to “Q&A with Twins Reliever Dusty Hughes”

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