Yanks’ Hughes Passes First Game Test

Published on: 20th June, 2011

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Yanks' Hughes Passes First Game Test  | read this item

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Brooklyn – Phil Hughes won 18 games as a 23-year old, baby-faced pitcher with the division-winning Yankees last season. He had every expectation of, at least duplicating his success in 2011. Instead, it has turned into the longest baseball season of his career.

Hughes has been on the disabled list for this entire season since  discovering what Yankee medical personnel  termed “weakness” in his throwing shoulder during spring training. The Yankees sent him for further medical testing yet never really discovered anything more than an inflammation in the shoulder, more specifically, in the bursa sac of his prized arm.

“It’s been tough,” Hughes said. “I came out in spring training and I wasn’t myself and it’s been really disappointing. I hope I can come back and make something of this year.”

Today, in Brooklyn, Hughes took the first step towards returning to the Bronx and taking his rightful role as the Yankees number two starter. Here, at MCU Ballpark in Coney Island, the home of the Mets’ Single A affiliate, Cyclones, Hughes faced live batters for the first time since March.

His performance, over 4 1/3 innings and 61 total pitches, was gratifying to the California native.

“I struggled in the first inning, getting a feel for things but the main thing is that my arm feels good,” he said. “Overall, I’m happy with the outing. I felt like I did a good job of getting ahead in the count and throwing strikes.”

Even though he was throwing against Single-A caliber hitters, his main concern was to throw strikes and maintain velocity for his entire outing. On both counts, Hughes feels he reached his objectives.

“I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand well, today,” he said. “The velocity was there. Throwing at 92-95 mph is normal for me so that was a good sign. I just need to build up stamina.”

Someone asked him if this felt like his first start in spring training, since he hadn’t thrown a pitch to a batter in several months.

“I’m further along now than a spring training start,” Hughes said. “I went into the fifth inning today and we don’t usually get to that point in spring training until several weeks in.”

What’s next for Hughes?

“Tentatively, I’ll pitch at Trenton in five days. And then we’ll see.

Given the Yankees struggles to keep their pitchers healthy and their dependence on veterans with lots of mileage in their arms like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, Hughes’ appearance in their locker room and more importantly, on the mound will be a welcome sight for his once, and future teammates.

The injuries to the Yankee pitching staff have not been lost on Hughes and the need for him to come back as soon as possible.

“Fortunately, we’re playing pretty good baseball now even with the injuries to Colon and Joba (Chamberlain), and the bullpen guys. Every day that goes by, you’re losing out on time and it’s been difficult. I hope it doesn’t take me that many starts to show I can get out major league hitters.”

The Yankees also hope it doesn’t take him that many starts but they won’t rush their prized righthander, who will be a key performer for the big club down the stretch.

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