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Sunday, September 26, 2010
Phil Hughes closes out Boston series

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK --- With the New York Yankees tumbling to the finish line, manager Joe Girardi has decided to finally show some urgency by starting Phil Hughes on Sunday night against the Boston Red Sox. He replaces Dustin Moseley.

The Yankees are making the move because the Red Sox suddenly have a shot to make the final week of the season very interesting if they can win on Sunday. The Yankees, losers of 13 of their last 19, have a magic number of three to clinch the wild card. If they were to win on Sunday night, the Yankees would basically end the Red Sox's chances.

"We need to win games," Girardi said before Sunday night's game.

Girardi also said that CC Sabathia is scheduled to start Tuesday. Sabathia had said his next start would be moved back to Friday in preparation for Game 1 of his ALDS start on Wednesday, October 6. Girardi said he never informed Sabathia or anyone of that.

"We've been on rotation," Girardi said.

If Boston were to win Sunday night, the magic number would remain at three and the Red Sox would still have life, though they would almost have to win out, while the Yankees would have to lose nearly all of their remaining games.

Boston plays four games in Chicago against the White Sox, while the Yankees are in Toronto for three with the Blue Jays. The Yankees go to Boston for the final three games of the season.

Girardi, who did not make the decision alone, said that the fact that the Yankees have pitched so poorly lately played a part in the move. He said on Saturday Moseley had to go to the bullpen to possibly be a long man.

After talking with pitching coach Dave Eiland and general manager Brian Cashman on Saturday night, Girardi informed Hughes he would start on Sunday. Girardi declined to say if it was his original idea or someone suggested it to him.

"Bottom line, I make the move," Girardi said.

Moseley, who was told of the change after Saturday's game, was disappointed by the decision.

"I'm a realist. I see what's going on," he said. "You've got to go with your guys."

Girardi called Red Sox manager Terry Francona Sunday afternoon to inform him of the pitching change. "Personal touch is nice," Francona said.

Girardi said there was a slight worry the switch would send a negative message to his players.

"Yes, I'm a little bit concerned how it's perceived in there, not necessarily anywhere else," he said, "but I think they know what we're trying to do."

Before Saturday's loss, Girardi said that he wouldn't be managing any differently if the Yankees were in a tighter playoff race. By the end of Saturday, he was doing the exact opposite of what he said.

The Yankees have been valuing health over home field, trying to get their players as healthy as possible for the playoffs even if they don't win the division or have the best record in the American League and have to settle for the wild card.

Originally, Sunday was Hughes' turn to start, but the Yankees were skipping him because he has an innings limit of around 175 innings. He entered Sunday at 169 1/3. Hughes is 17-8 with a 4.31 ERA.

Girardi said that Hughes -- who was going to be pushed to Wednesday in Toronto -- threw his bullpen and was preparing as if he were going to start Sunday.

When Girardi made the move earlier in the week, he didn't think the Yankees would need to win Sunday night as badly as they suddenly do. The Yankees began Sunday 1 games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East and 5 games ahead of the Red Sox in the wild-card race.

"The point is we have to get in first," Girardi said. "We need to win ballgames and play better."

The move could be perceived as a panic-filled one. Girardi said that he was a little concerned about how the decision to start Hughes would be perceived in the clubhouse, but he feels his players understand what he has been doing.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.