No surprise, Phil Hughes remained a hot topic of discussion during today’s pregame press conference. There’s really nothing new — the Yankees still believe it’s a matter of arm strength — but Joe Girardi did bring up one aspect that Hughes himself mentioned in passing yesterday.
Last season, Hughes didn’t make his first Major League start until April 15. He stayed behind in Tampa to continue pitching in exhibition games after the Yankees broke camp, and in the last outing or two before he finally came north, Hughes’ velocity was lower than usual. The return to form might have been a matter of Major League adrenalin. It might have been a matter of recovering from a sort of dead-arm period. It might have been a matter of gaining the proper arm strength.
“This is a kid that made his first start last year April 15 and his velocity creeped up a couple miles from what it did in spring training,” Girardi said. “I know his velocity has not been there this year. Does it have to do with the increased work last year? Does it have to do with it’s just taking him a little time to get going? I can’t tell you. There’s nothing to lead us to believe that something is bothering him because he hasn’t said anything.”
Girardi said the Yankees still have no plans of sending Hughes to a doctor because right now — aside from the velocity — there’s no sign of trouble, either medical or mechanical.
“There are guys that really get into their legs (when they pitch),” Girardi said. “There are other guys who don’t, who just have that natural gift of being able to throw a ball hard. For Hughesy, he’s somewhere in between that, and I’m not going to panic about his velocity. I’m not. I believe it’s coming back. I can’t give you a date. I’d like to be able to say it will be back this day, but I believe it’s going to be there. Right now he’s scuffling a little bit, and I don’t want to throw away what this kid did last year and all of a sudden say I’m really concerned. Yeah, I want to get him on track and he’s important to us, but I believe it’s coming back.”
• That said, Jorge Posada is off to a strange start. He has three home runs, but he has only one other hit. Some of that is because of the adjustment to DH, Girardi said, but most of it is simply the ebb and flow of being a hitter. “When he hit those couple of home runs we thought he had it,” Girardi said. “It’s just part of the game. In our game there are so many ups and downs, to me the big thing is that mentally you stay on the same plane all the time and you don’t get caught up in it.”
• Russell Martin has played in every game this season, but as Girardi pointed out, he has yet to play more than four games in a row. He was supposed to have a day off on Wednesday, but that game was rained out. “The schedule has played favorably for him to play every day,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he considered putting Chavez in the field, but right now he’s confident that Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira feel fine. “I think physically, they’re good and their bodies are recovering fine right now,” Girardi said. “Maybe if it’s a little later in the season, I might change my mind.”
• Girardi said it’s possible Bartolo Colon could be available tomorrow, but it’s more likely he won’t pitch again until after Monday’s off day. Freddy Garcia is available as a long man today.
• Kind of like what he said about Hughes, Girardi said he doesn’t want to “throw away” what Boone Logan did last season. The Yankees have seen Logan be effective as the No. 1 lefty, and right now they have little choice but to trust that he’ll get going again. “Boone is our left-hander out of the bullpen that’s going to need to get left-handers out,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of lefties, Pedro Feliciano will see the doctor when the Yankees return to New York. If that checkup goes well, he could be cleared to begin throwing. Feliciano has indicated that he does not believe it will take him very long to get ready.
• Francisco Cervelli has been taking batting practice, running in a pool and doing light agility drills in Tampa. Girardi still believes he could have his regular backup catcher by early May.
• I thought Girardi did a nice job addressing the Manny Ramirez retirement: “Any time that this comes up, it’s kind of a black eye for baseball in a sense,” he said. “It’s sad. We keep trying to put this behind us, this era that they talk about, and it just keeps resurfacing. We have trials coming up, we have what happened with Manny, and it saddens me. You want the game to be clean and gone about the right way. We went through a time period that it didn’t happen.”
Associated Press photos of Hughes and Posada.
Also, Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues is a Bob Dylan song. For whatever reason I thought of it when I was writing that headline.