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Providence's McHugh soaks in trip back home with Mets

ATLANTA -- After many trips to Turner Field as a fan, Collin McHugh wanted to document his first visit as a player.

So shortly after arriving at the visiting clubhouse and putting on his New York Mets uniform Friday, the Providence Christian graduate headed through the dugout and out to the diamond with a special mission.

"I took a picture just so I could time-capsule myself and say I was here," McHugh said.

An 18th-round draft choice in 2008 out of Berry College, the right-hander faced an uphill battle to make the majors. But he did just that and his late-August debut with the Mets couldn't have been more attention grabbing.

McHugh allowed just two hits and struck out nine over seven scoreless innings against Colorado at Citi Field, although the Mets ended up losing 1-0.

The 25-year-old Atlanta resident hasn't had that kind of success since, a rough start Tuesday dropping his record to 0-3 and lifting his ERA to 6.75. But his confidence that he can get major leaguers out remains unshaken.

"I know I'm good enough," McHugh said. "That's not a question I have to ask myself anymore. I've done it and I can do it again. I have the skills. It's just a question of being consistent."

Fatigue could be the cause of McHugh's rough September.

"I truly believe he's running out of gas," Mets manager Terry Collins said after McHugh couldn't make it out of the second inning against Pittsburgh is what was already expected to be his last start of the season. "You accumulate all of the innings he has this year, pitching in September for the first time. His stuff is not as crisp as it was the first outing. His curveball, which is still a good pitch, is not as sharp as it was earlier."

McHugh, who may pitch again out of the bullpen, doesn't want to make excuses, though.

"It comes down to execution," he said. "I executed really well that first game and I've executed really poorly the last couple outings."

But a few rough outings can't detract from McHugh's journey this season. After all, he was pitching in Class AA until midseason and started last year still in Class A.

"I used to put too much pressure on myself," said McHugh, who was already in the Providence Christian Hall of Fame before becoming the school's first major leaguer. "But I finally decided to just trust in God and be content with whatever happened. It made a difference."

After going 8-2 with a 2.89 ERA for Binghamton to finish 2011, McHugh earned a shot with the Mets by posting a combined 2.79 ERA with Binghamton and Class AAA Buffalo this season.

Even though he wasn't scheduled to pitch, the trip back home to Atlanta was a perfect way to end a breakthrough season.

"I must have come here 200 times," McHugh said. "I was a big Braves fan. This is coming full circle for me."

Although McHugh enjoyed getting to see the Chipper Jones tribute on Friday night, it was Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz that he came to see growing up.

"I was really a fan of the Big Three," he said of the trio of future Hall of Famers. "Hopefully, I learned from all of them."

McHugh will have to prove himself again next spring with the Mets, but at least he's got a taste of the major leagues.

"It's been a dream come true," he said.

GWINNETT MAJOR LEAGUERS

There are a record seven players from Gwinnett high schools with major league teams.

Player Position High School Team^

Charlie Blackmon OF N.Gwinnett Rockies^

Jeff Francoeur OF Parkview Royals^

*Nick Green INF Duluth Marlins^

Jeff Keppinger INF Parkview Rays^

Brian McCann C Duluth Braves^

Collin McHugh RHP Providence Mets^*Blake Wood RHP N.Gwinnett Royals^

  • On disabled list