Quick Hits: The Sequel–NBA Playoffs, Italy, Hughes

A compilation of thoughts/predictions that would otherwise be too short for their own posts. 

Basketball-Game Ones aside, I’m standing by both my predictions in the NBA Conference Finals: Thunder in six, Heat in five (although I suppose in the case of the Boston-Miami series, game one reinforces the prediction).

Miami presents a formidable challenge in any case, but given Boston’s injury situation, the task at hand may very well be too daunting to overcome. Ray Allen in particular was ineffective and obviously hampered by injury in the first game, and ESPN Boston is reporting that the Celtics may rest the shooting guard in Game Two.

Soccer-It goes without saying that the deadly earthquake that struck northern Italy today has much more serious implications than any effect it may have on soccer. That said, it is true that the disaster cancelled the scheduled friendly between Italy and Luxembourg.   This means that Italy’s only pre-European Championship tuneup will be this Friday against Russia.

This is somewhat problematic for a squad that has a number of question marks as to what its starting XI will be. The additional friendly could have helped to provide a further degree of clarity.

Who will start upfront was already a nagging question, and now Italy can add left back to its list of positions without a clear starter. This is because presumptive starter Domenico Criscito was left off the roster due to allegations of his involvement in the latest betting scandal in Serie A (via Football-Italia). Ignazio Abate of AC Milan and Federico Balzaretti could be replacements, in addition to Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus. While Chiellini was slated to start at center back, he has experience on the outside. Slotting him at left back would open the door for teammates Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli to both start in central defense.

Baseball-There is no denying Phil Hughes was dreadful in last night’s start against the Angels. Despite being spotted a three-run lead before even taking the mound, the Yankees starter surrendered seven runs and eleven hits in 5.1 innings of work. 

This has reignited calls for Hughes to be removed from the rotation and placed in the injury-depleted Yankees bullpen. Wallace Mathews of ESPN New York is one of these voices, saying Hughes’ inconsistency makes him ill-suited to be a starting pitcher.

This would be a total overreaction to one start, however. In his previous four starts prior to Monday, Hughes had given up a combined eight runs in 25.2 innings pitched (good for 2.81 ERA).  In the process, he posted a solid WHIP of 1.17 and struck out 23.

Furthermore, as Wallace concedes, the Yankees have no adequate replacement for Hughes. Considering this, and his strong recent outings, removing Hughes from the starting rotation would be a highly questionable move.

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