The first five words from Phil Hughes stated the obvious: “Something had to be done.”
After three starts, Hughes fastball velocity is still stuck in the high 80s. He touched 91 and 92 in the first inning last night, but he dropped right back to 88 by the third. The Yankees have been patient, and they believe he’s 100 percent healthy, but at this point Hughes clearly doesn’t have the strength necessary to be a major league starter.
“If he were injured he probably wouldn’t have got there (to 91, 92 mph),” manager Joe Girardi said. “But it’s just not at the strength it needs to be to pitch seven competitive innings every fifth day.”
The Yankees talked about optioning Hughes to Triple-A, but they ultimately decided to put him on the disabled list so that he can go through a long toss program without worrying about bullpen sessions and every-fifth-day starts. Hughes told them he needed this time to build strength, “and not continue to do the same thing I’ve been doing.”
So Hughes will stay with the team. He’ll go through a long toss program and an arm strength program with Larry Rothschild and the rest of the coaching staff. Girardi said the team will be able to learn a lot from the long toss sessions. When they decide he’s ready, Hughes will start throwing in the bullpen and eventually go for a rehab assignment.
“I’m very confident,” Hughes said. “It’s not one of those things where I feel like it’s going to take months. It’s something that’s going to change pretty quickly. I’ll work hard at it, do my long toss, do my exercises, and hopefully it’ll be there. It’s not like we’re talking about 10 mph, but at some point I need to be strong, maintain my velocity, get a few ticks on it as well. It’s a small difference, but it’s huge in terms of going out there and being effective.”
• The Yankees don’t have an exact rotation set, but Bartolo Colon will move out of the bullpen to become a starter for the time being. Girardi said he can probably go 80 to 85 pitches in his first start. “Obviously you don’t want one of your starters to go on the DL, but Bartolo has thrown as well as anyone and he has a chance to step up for us,” Girardi said.
• With Lance Pendleton and Hector Noesi up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees have two true long relievers in the bullpen. Pendleton was not listed as an available reliever pregame. Not sure when he’s supposed to be here.
• Russell Martin will get his first day off tomorrow. Gustavo Molina will catch Freddy Garcia.
• Girardi said Carlos Silva is definitely not an option right now — he just reported to the minor league complex on Wednesday — and he didn’t consider Kevin Millwood a real option either. “I can’t tell you exactly where he’s at,” Girardi said.
• Brett Gardner is struggling and has the day off so that Andruw Jones can play against a left-handed starter. “(Gardner)’s been behind in a lot of counts, 0-1, 1-2,” Girardi said. “Then the pitcher has a chance to nibble and make you hit his pitch. He’s just scuffling a little bit. At times I’ve thought he’s been close. We saw him hit a couple of line drives, thought he was coming out, then he kind of got back in.”
• Here’s Girardi on Jackie Robinson Day:
“I think it means a lot to the players today because you look at how diverse our game is today and how it’s changed because of Jackie Robinson. I had a chance to go to a Little League in Newark today. I was telling the kids — and it was all age groups – that if you take anything from Jackie, think about how he persevered. Think about, there were people who didn’t want him to be successful. There were people who told him he couldn’t do it, and he didn’t let those people get in his way. He had a goal and he had a dream and he went out and made it happen under circumstances most of us will probably never understand. There are times you’re going to be ridiculed. There will be times people don’t like you, but that shouldn’t keep you from going out and trying to do what you want to do and being a successful person and being a good person, things that Jackie did under terrible circumstances.”
Ian Kinsler 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Nelson Cruz RF
David Murphy LF
Yorvit Torrealba C
Mitch Moreland 1B
Julio Borbon CF
Associated Press photos