Hughes returns to Pirates with improved delivery

Hughes returns to Pirates with improved delivery

PITTSBURGH -- Fellow passengers on a commuter flight to Pittsburgh late Friday night may have been a bit freaked out. Jared Hughes, the soft-spoken Pirates reliever with the hard edge on the mound, was watching the Bucs-Astros game and getting his game-face on.

The connecting flight had been delayed, but the 4-4 game at PNC Park appeared to be heading into extra innings.

"I had to keep my mind in the game during the flight, in case we were in extras when I got there and had to pitch," Hughes said Saturday afternoon.

The game, won by the Pirates in the ninth inning on a two-out error by Houston right fielder Jimmy Paredes, was long over by the time Hughes reached the park post-midnight.

If the delay was tough on Hughes -- recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis as Jose Contreras went on the bereavement list -- it was much tougher on Pirates manager Clint Hurdle who, unbeknownst at the time, had a thin bullpen.

"[Jason] Grilli wasn't available, and I didn't want to use [Bryan] Morris," Hurdle said. "We were really hoping Hughes would get here during the game."

Hughes and his improved delivery were at the ready in the Bucs' bullpen Saturday night.

"I definitely made a few mechanical adjustments," said Hughes, who threw all blanks in six outings with Indianapolis after posting a 4.61 ERA in 13 appearances with the Pirates. "I got myself back to where I was when I was really consistent with the sinker and the slider."

"He showed some improvement, although I do think there is more room for improvement," Hurdle said. "But he is better than he was when he got [to Indianapolis]."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.