Twins’ Hughes turns down chance to pitch for $500K bonus

Published 10:09 am Friday, September 26, 2014

By Phil Miller

Minneapolis Star Tribune

DETROIT — Phil Hughes was shocked by the support he received from fans who demanded he receive a $500,000 bonus from the Twins despite finishing one out short of the required 210 innings.

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“That was very kind of them to appreciate what I’ve done this year,” he said. “You don’t really expect people to want professional athletes to get paid more money.”

And you really don’t expect the people paying that money to be so eager to write the check. But the Twins surprised their ace Thursday by offering him a chance to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend, retire one Tigers batter, and trigger that half-million dollars. His answer might have been the biggest shocker of all: No.

“I just didn’t feel it was right,” said Hughes, who had never pitched more than 191 innings before this season, his first under a three-year, $24 million contract. “[It] was very generous. It says a lot about this organization. But I owe my 100 percent health to this organization over the next two years, and I’m not going to do anything to risk that. … For whatever reason, it’s just not meant to be.”

Apparently not. Hughes, who earned $8 million this year plus a pair of $250,000 bonuses for reaching 180 and 195 innings, would have had one more start ahead, in Sunday’s season finale, but a rainout Sept. 12 in Cleveland pushed his starts back by a day. That made Wednesday’s home finale against Arizona his final game of 2014, and he began it with 201 2/3 innings, meaning he would have to pitch at least 8 1/3 innings for his final bonus to kick in.

He mowed down the Diamondbacks through eight innings, but a sudden eighth-inning rain cell caused a 66-minute delay that cost Hughes a chance to pitch the ninth.

Manager Ron Gardenhire pronounced Hughes’ season finished after the game, setting off some indignant reaction on social media. The debate raged and Hughes’ situation got national attention — CNN, ESPN and several other national outlets contacted the Twins for interviews.