In the end, there was no decision at all. Michael Pineda was hurt and the Yankees five-man rotation was set by default, but Phil Hughes doesn’t feel like anything was handed to him. He earned his spot as the Yankees No. 3 starter, and tonight’s four scoreless innings were further proof.
“I just came in and wanted to throw the ball well,” Hughes said. “That was it. I didn’t want to think any more into it or any further ahead. I just wanted to make some tough decisions for these guys. Unfortunately, we had an injury that kind of made up some decisions for everybody, but I feel like I threw the ball well enough to be here. That’s all I really wanted to do.”
Hughes finished spring training with a 1.56 ERA. He’s cut down on his walks, shown an improved changeup, and flashed much better — and much more consistent — fastball velocity than last spring.
“I just feel a lot better overall,” he said. “I felt really good at the end of last year when I was finally back and got some arm strength built up, so I just wanted to make sure I carried a good work ethic into this spring training, that I was strong and ready to go. I feel like I was able to do that.”
In the end, a rotation spot was handed to him. But he’d already done more than enough to deserve it.
• After making his final start of the spring, what did Hiroki Kuroda think of the new Marlins stadium? “Any time I have a good outing, that becomes a really good stadium,” Kuroda said. “Today I didn’t really have a good outing, so I don’t think it made a really good impression.”
• Kuroda didn’t think his stuff was nearly as good as his seven-inning, two-run performance last week, but he still held the Marlins to just one run. “I think I’m ready for the season,” he said. “Even though you have a bad outing you try to keep the game as close as possible and that’s what I was able to do today, so I think I’m ready for the season.”
• Dave Robertson finally had the kind of outing he was hoping for. After pitching two innings at the minor league complex to build some arm strength, he came in tonight and struck out two in a quick, scoreless ninth inning. “I felt much better,” he said. “More control. More control in my windup.”
• Girardi argued a first-inning call when Robinson Cano was called for batters interference, causing Curtis Granderson to be called out on a stolen base. It was a strikeout-throwout to end the inning, and although Cano did fall toward the plate, it didn’t look like John Buck was in a position to actually make a throw. “I guess you could say it’s the right call, but I still don’t like it because he went to his knees,” Girardi said.
• Does a manager have to practice arguing in spring training? “We have to,” Girardi said, playing along with the joke question. “We have to get ready.”
• Nick Swisher came through tonight’s game with no problems, and Girardi said it seems that he has no additional injury problems heading into the final two games of the spring. “Everyone came out good today,” he said.
• Playing at home in Miami, Alex Rodriguez had three of the Yankees RBIs in a 5-2 win. He has 14 RBIs this spring and is batting .292. Even now that he’s playing longer games, and playing more days in a row, Rodriguez said his body still feels strong and durable. “I think overall I just feel like i have a better plan,” he said. “A better plan of attack this season.”
• The Yankees had only five hits today, one each for Rodriguez, Grandreson, Swisher, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.
• Most of the Yankees are catching a flight back to Tampa tonight. The ones who have to play in Port St. Lucie tomorrow — Gardner, Swisher, Jones and Nova are the biggest names making the trip — have to stick around and take a 9 a.m. bus. That game starts at 2 p.m. tomorrow, not 1 p.m. like most spring games.
• With that, I’m hitting the road. I’m making the two-hour drive to Port St. Lucie tonight.
Associated Press photos