Hughes proved his value to the team last season when he emerged as one of the top set up men in the game . His performance (except for the postseason) was all but dominant and quite frankly amazing. He showed poise that a 23 year old hardly possesses in just his second full season in the big leagues.
By moving Joba Chamberlain back to the eighth inning role, the Yankees are showing that they have all but lost hope in him starting. After having to endure his short and painful five inning stints where he would walk men, give up multiple hits, especially in two out situations and of course throw about 25 pitches per inning every five days, the team figured it wouldn't hurt them to give Hughes another shot.
The last few times Hughes has been in the rotation was when he was filling in for someone that was on the disabled list. Hughes himself would often end up getting injured with either hamstring or shoulder injuries. (Hughes tore his hamstring in the middle of a no-hitter during his debut season of 2007. Unfortunately the injury had him sidelined until September of that year when the injury occurred in May.) Hughes proved his value to the organization in 2007 when he relieved an ineffective Roger Clemens, Hughes' idol growing up, and pitched a very effective game, earning his first victory of the postseason and extending the yankees playoff life for one more miserable game.
To me, I'm very pleased with the way the Yankees are heading. I've always preferred Hughes to Chamberlain for a variety of reasons. The biggest issues though have to deal with work ethic and accountability. When Joba has a rough outing he always blames someone or something else but never accepts the responsibility. Hughes on the other hand will plainly state how much he stunk on a particular night and offers no excuse, similar to what Clemens did.
I think by spending the majority of last season in the bullpen and having the wise and all powerful Mariano Rivera there for advice really benefitted Hughes last season. Not surprisingly, Hughes developed confidence to throw his change up and has proved to be effective this spring. Perhaps Joba's extended time with Mo this season in the bullpen will help him too.
Unfortunately, I feel that Chamberlain is too cocky and that his early success spoiled him. Hopefully something will make him realize that even if you have talent you still need to work hard to achieve success.