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Friday, March 22, 2013
Hughes: 'I feel great'

By Wallace Matthews

TAMPA, Fla. -- Phil Hughes pitched against Class A Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguers today and allowed three runs, six hits and a long home run in three innings of work.

Still, Hughes came away pleased, because as he said, "I feel great, which is goal number one."

Goal number two, which is to pitch well enough, and long enough, to convince the Yankees to bring him north when the club breaks camp next Thursday, is still a couple of outings away, and right now seems highly unlikely.

Asked if it was certain that he would start the season on the disabled list, Hughes said, "No. Not completely. It’s probably likely but I wouldn’t say it’s for sure."

Certainly, the Yankees seem to be preparing for such an eventuality. As they are doing with Derek Jeter, they are holding Hughes out of major-league preseason action for the rest of training camp to reserve the right to place Hughes on the DL retroactive to March 22, which would qualify him to be reactivated on April 6,, the first day the Yankees will need a fifth starter. And in fact, it might take a little longer than that for Hughes to be ready to pitch in the major leagues.

"Realistically, you’d like him to be able to throw 90-100 pitches on his start day," Joe Girardi said. "You don’t want to be in a situation where he only throws 75 and then you’ve got to use your bullpen when we're in the midst of a long run."

Hughes threw 57 pitches today, which is way too many for a three-inning outing, and none of the six hits he gave up were cheapies. "I was a little frustrated early, trying to do too much,'' Hughes said, "But when I kinda settled down and just pitched, it was a little bit better."

Hughes' bad inning was the second, when his first pitch was launched over the left-field fence. He then allowed two hard hit singles sandwiched around a throwing error, which resulted in only two of the runs being earned. But without a radar gun at the field it was impossible to know if Hughes' problem was velocity or location.

"It’s hard to say," Hughes said. "I feel good but I don’t really know how the ball’s coming out. After the first pitch of the second inning, when they hit a rocket over the wall, I wasn’t so sure. But my location was better in the third inning and I got a couple of swings and misses, which was encouraging. I’m probably not where I need to be but I still have some time to get my pitch count up and get there."

Hughes is likely to go again on Wednesday in another minor-league game. Asked if Hughes was likely to pitch on that Saturday in Detroit during the Yankees first road-trip of the season, GM Brian Cashman said "It’s possible. He’ll be a close call in the end. I think he’s certainly going in the right direction, but I think it’s just a time issue for him. If it’s better to backdate him on the DL and have him ready for the next turn in the rotation, we could do that."