Phil Hughes will make his first regular season start on April 15. Until then, he will make two extended spring starts in Florida. He will, however, break camp on the active roster.
Here’s the full plan for Hughes.
April 5: He will throw 90 to 100 pitches in extended spring training. Those games are played against other teams, just like a minor league spring training game. It’s not intrasquad. After the game, Hughes will fly to Boston to join the Yankees.
April 10: In the middle of the Yankees series against the Rays in St. Pete, Hughes will make another extended spring start in Tampa. He will likely be backed off to around 70 pitches, just like the other Yankees starters in their final spring training starts.
April 15: Hughes will make his regular season debut at home against the Angels. That’s the last game of that Anaheim series. He will be properly stretched out, ready to throw as many pitches as the other Yankees starters.
Why do it this way?
Girardi said this allows the Yankees to further control Hughes’ innings. The starts in extended spring training don’t count toward his innings limit, but they will keep him fresh. “There were times when he threw only 50 pitches (in spring training) when he other guys were throwing 70,” Girardi said. “We feel like this is good to get him up to where he needs to be.”
Why don’t the extended spring innings count?
Because they are in a controlled, low-stress environment. “You can manage a game,” Girardi said. “Let’s say he goes 25 pitches, you can stop the inning. You can do a lot of things that you can’t do in a real game.”
Why not option Hughes and carry an extra reliever?
There will be nights when Hughes is available as an emergency, extra-innings reliever. “There’s a situation that could arise where you might need him to make a spot start, or you get rained out and they want to play a double header,” Girardi said. If Hughes were optioned, the Yankees would have to wait 10 days before calling him up (unless someone got hurt).
UPDATE, 4:35 p.m.: Here’s the Girardi audio explaining the situation and why the Yankees made this decision.