Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Sunday, September 25, 2011
Updated: September 26, 4:20 PM ET
Yanks send hurt Phil Hughes to bullpen

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- With Phil Hughes' injury causing him to have failed to throw a pitch in more than two weeks, the New York Yankees have decided to relegate him to the bullpen for their final regular season series against Tampa and most likely the entire postseason.

"That is what we are going to look at during the playoffs," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees marathon day-night doubleheader with the Red Sox on Sunday.

Between the splitting of the two games, Girardi and pitching Larry Rothschild informed Hughes he would be pitching out of the bullpen in the Tampa series. The Yankees had thoughts about having Hughes start against Tampa in hopes of him possibly being ready to begin an ALDS game or a later playoff game.

"I did it to myself," Hughes said. "I had the back issue coming off the good start in Seattle so therefore I didn't have an opportunity to pitch."

On Sept. 12th, Hughes threw six innings of one-run ball against the light-hitting Mariners. Soon after, an old bulging disk in his back flared up, and he hasn't pitched since. On the season, Hughes is 5-5 with a 6.00 ERA. He has started 14 out of the 15 games he has pitched.

Out of the bullpen, it is unclear how vital a role Hughes could play. In 2009 when the Yankees won the World Series, Hughes was critical as Mariano Rivera's setup man. But that role has been filled spectacularly by All-Star David Robertson. In the seventh, Rafael Soriano has been pitching very well of late, leaving Hughes as a possible long man.

Hughes could be the caddie to whomever the Yankees choose to start Game 3 of the ALDS. A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia are the two leading candidates. If one of them falters as the starter, then Hughes could be called on to come out of the bullpen because of his relief experience.

The Yankees are going to start CC Sabathia in Game 1 and rookie Ivan Nova in Game 2. Sabathia could go in Game 4 on three days rest. Nova could start a potential Game 5 on normal rest.

Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.