The Yankees haven’t had a radar gun on Phil Hughes in his bullpens, and they didn’t have a gun on him during this afternoon’s sim game, but pitching coaches can usually recognize velocity without the exact numbers.
Minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras always says he pays little attention to the gun and judges velocity on what he sees, and Larry Rothschild said basically the same thing this afternoon. He said it was “the arm speed and the finish in the strike zone” that told him Hughes was maintaining his velocity throughout his 22-pitch simulated outing.
“One of the things you see is he’s more animated in his delivery, which tells you his arm feels better,” Rothschild said. “Before it was, ‘You need to quickened up the pace of your delivery because that’s what you do when you’re good.’ Because the arm speed wasn’t there, he ended up slowing it down a lot. Since he started throwing again, it’s been much more animated. I think he’s feeling better, and the arm speed’s better, and you can see it in the bullpen for sure.”
Rothschild gave a flat “no” response when asked if there would be any reason for Hughes to repeat this step. As long as he bounces back, Hughes is scheduled for two innings next time out (either in a simulated game or an extended spring training game).
“He’s going to go through another spring training, basically,” Rothschild said.
Without putting a definite timetable on Hughes return, a spring training program is fairly easy to follow. Assuming Hughes pitches two innings next time out — then three, then four, then five — he’ll probably need four extended spring outings to be stretched out enough for a rehab start. If you allow for two rehab outings (just a guess on my part) that’s six outings total, each one coming every five days. That’s 30 days, which puts Hughes roughly a month away.
“From there it’s up to me as far as how I look and how I’m throwing and whether I warrant getting a shot back up here,” Hughes said. “… I just got to do what I can do. Go out there and prove that I’m healthy and ready to go. Force their hand and force the timetable a little bit. Other than that, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Everyone seems to agree that Hughes might move a little faster than a regular spring training schedule, but no one seems able to say what steps he might skip or how much more quickly he might move. Rothschild said he expects this to take less than six weeks. A month seems to be a solid estimate right now. The more important issue at the moment is that is Hughes looks and feels better than he did in those bullpen sessions immediately before he went for all of those medical tests and got that cortisone shot.
“My last side felt different as well,” Hughes said. “I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand good, and I had no issues throwing. Everything seemed pretty sharp. At this stage, I think that’s pretty much all I can ask for. I’ve said all along I won’t know for sure until I get in a game, but so far everything has been right where I want it.”
And here’s Rothschild.
• Hughes threw his simulated game against Francisco Cervelli and Chris Dickerson. Rothschild said he got four or five outs with those 22 pitches. The offspeed stuff wasn’t sharp, “but that’s fully expected,” Rothschild said.
• The official rehab won’t start until Hughes builds innings, but if he goes to extended spring, it’s basically the same thing as a rehab assignment except without the rules and restrictions (there’s a limit to how long an actual rehab can last). The fact Hughes is not immediately starting a rehab is a non-issue.
• The Yankees pitchers have started taking batting practice for interleague games. “It’s fun,” Girardi said. “Pitchers look forward to it. It makes a difference a lot of times if they stay in a game, so we encourage them to take this really seriously. If you can’t get a bunt down and you can’t do some things, you’re out.”
• The High Socks for Hope website is up and running. Check it out.
• This isn’t a huge game, but it’s certainly a game that could be a turning point and would assure a winning record on this road trip. Once again, it’s CC Sabathia on the mound in a game like this. “He doesn’t put any more pressure on himself than he has to,” Girardi said. “(He doesn’t think) ‘I have to be economical, have to attack more earlier.’ No, he’s going to pitch his game. I think it allows him just to pitch to that day as opposed to trying to pitch to the last three days or that sort of thing.”
Maicer Izturis 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Abreu DH
Torii Hunter RF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Howie Kendrick LF
Mark Trumbo 1B
Jeff Mathis C
Peter Bourjos CF
Associated Press photo