Phil Hughes missed all of it: The seven strong innings from Bartolo Colon, the go-ahead single by Nick Swisher, the tremendous slide by Mark Teixeira and the lesson in how to close a ball game by Mariano Rivera.
In so many ways, Hughes is back to square one in his attempt to come back from a dead arm that has baffled the Yankees since spring training. But Monday’s diagnosis — or lack of one — was good news. Hughes will go back to New York to begin a strengthening program. Today’s tests showed no signs of thoracic outlet syndrome, and so Hughes will resume a rehab program.
“We need to continue to try to rehab and try to get him strong and see if we can get him back to where he was,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Hughes will not join the Yankees this road trip, as was previously expected. He will instead begin his rehab work at home, and Girardi doesn’t expect to see him again until the team finishes its upcoming series in Texas.
Obviously, there remains some sense of mystery, and perhaps the Yankees are no closer to solving the puzzle, but thoracic outlet syndrome was hardly a best-case scenario. It might have been nice to have an answer, but surely not this answer. It’s not unusual for a pitcher to struggle one year after a significant workload increase, and Hughes might be experiencing something along those lines.
“(Today’s result) makes me feel better,” Girardi said, “because I’m not sure if he has that, what they have to do and how long you don’t have him if that’s what he has. It makes me feel better.”
• Not a lot left to say about Bartolo Colon. He’s been a crucial piece of the puzzle, a perfect fill-in while the Yankees try to figure out what’s wrong with Hughes. Colon was asked tonight if he had any sense of just how important he’s become: “I don’t have any idea right now,” he said. “I just want to keep working hard for the team.”
• Colon keeps getting a ton of strikeouts looking. “I think because I throw a lot of strikes,” he said. It was about as funny and as accurate as anything he could have said, but there’s a bigger issue at play. Hitters are taking those strikes for a reason: “I think it’s the way the ball is moving that makes it different,” Colon said.
• Curtis Granderson got a lot of credit postgame for his 12-pitch walk that opened that decisive ninth inning. Granted, he was out on a bad slide stealing second, but he seemed to disrupt Jose Valverde before Valverde had a chance to get going. “He made him work really hard and seemed to get him out of his rhythm,” Girardi said.
• And then there was the hit by Swisher, breaking a string of missed chances that included 10 Yankees left on base — four of them at third base — in the first eight innings. “Going back up the middle is definitely what you’re trying to do,” Swisher said. “For myself, I’ve been trying to do that for the past week or so, and now it feels like things are starting to click in a little bit.”
• The two home runs by Alex Avila: According to Colon, one was on a two-seamer that was supposed to be in and went outside, the second was on a changeup that was supposed to be away and wound up middle.
• The eighth-inning approach against Miguel Cabrera: Joba Chamberlain said he went with four straight sliders because he was able to locate the pitch and he didn’t think Cabrera was getting good swings against it. Of course, he wound up with a single. “I’m not going to throw any get-me-over sliders to him,” Chamberlain said.
• The third-inning decision to pitch to Cabrera, when he singled in run with two outs and first base open: “Brennan Boesch has been swinging the bat pretty good too,” Girardi said. “And he’s a guy that has hurt his a lot over the couple of years and hit the ball out of the ball park. It’s early and it’s 3-1 in that situation, and you don’t want to start giving free base runners.”
• Girardi said he definitely would not have used Robinson Cano tonight, but he still believes he’ll be available tomorrow. Girardi was also planning to stay away from Rafael Soriano and Dave Robertson.
• Mariano Rivera was available because he threw so few pitches the previous two nights. “He’ll fight me, but he’ll be off (tomorrow),” Girardi said.
• Jorge Posada managed a two-out, two-run double off a pitch that was at least close to 100 mph if not right at 100 mph in the first inning. “Close my eyes and swing,” he said. With tonight’s game, Posada has passed Joe DiMaggio for sole possession of 10th place on the Yankees all-time games played list.
Associated Press photos