In his first season as Auburn’s head coach, Tommy Slater said there’s nobody else he would rather see on the mound than senior Arnold Hughey.
“I’ve known Arnold since he was about 13 with the camps here,” Slater said of the left-hander. “I’ve known him a long time. I have gotten to watch him grow up as a pitcher competing against him last year and in our camps when he was young. Arnold is going to go out every single times and throw strikes and compete. I think his breaking ball has gotten better in his work with Coach Myers and I think his change-up has been real good too. He’s a three-pitch guy. We’re very excited about him being our opening day starter on the mound.”
A fixture in the rotation since breaking in his freshman year, Hughey was 6-4 in 2004 with a 4.58 ERA. Combining a solid fastball with an improving breaking ball after getting help from new pitching coach Matt Myers, Hughey said that he’s anxious to see if the new tips and techniques he’s gotten from Myers are going to carry over into games.
“I really like his approach,” Hughey said of Myers. “He’s got a plan set out that he’s talked about with all his pitchers. We’re going to study our opponents and kind of go at them the best we can. I can see us attacking both ways (fastball and breaking ball). Some guys have more advantages than other pitchers do. He knows how to pitch. He pitched in the SEC and he’s coaching in it now. I think he’s got a very good gameplan.
“I have worked hard to improve my curveball,” Hughey added. “That’s the most improvement I would say. I threw a slider last year, but during the fall I laid off it a little bit. Now I’ve gone back to it so hopefully I’ll have four pitches to change things up with. I think I’ll be pretty good with that.”
Following last season’s disappointment, when the Tigers finished just 12-18 in SEC play and missed the postseason for the first time since 1996, Hughey said the team is ready to get back on the field to begin a new chapter in Auburn baseball. That begins Friday and Hughey has the ball in his hands. He said that’s the way he wants it and he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m just looking forward to having a very successful season,” Hughey said. “Our team is looking great so far. I think we’ll be very successful. I just want to go out there and prove to myself that I can be a dominant starter in this league. I have the experience and I just need to step it up a little more to really dominate. I think I can do that. I have worked hard improving my pitches and my mechanics. I look forward to going out and seeing what I’ve got.”