The tarp is on the field and a lot of rain in the forecast. It’s going to be an erratic day for Phil Hughes to try to show some consistency.
“I want to pitch well,” Hughes said yesterday. “There’s always that, I think. I got off to a slow start, and there’s pressure to prove that you belong here, and that you can help this team win. That’s always the case.”
With Andy Pettitte possibly making his final minor league start this afternoon, Hughes is running out of time to prove he belongs. He showed some positive signs in his previous start — and it’s hard to believe David Phelps has an unbreakable grip on a rotation job — but another bad outing this afternoon could mean a bullpen job for Hughes.
“You don’t want someone to take your job?” Joe Girardi said. “Go out and pitch lights out.”
Part of the challenge for Hughes is matching quantity with quality.
His fastball velocity was up last time out, and he seemed to be throwing quality strikes early in the count, but Hughes has not consistently put hitters away. He’s pitched through the fifth inning only twice this season and has yet to pitch through the sixth. To help put away hitters more quickly and easily, Hughes has begun to lean more heavily on his curveball because he trusts it far more than his changeup or cutter, and he believes it’s a more effective secondary pitch.
“Just come out aggressively and throw strikes,” Hughes said. “I feel like my arm strength is really good right now. I just want to hone that in and get some quick outs, and go deeper in the game, and be a little more efficient. … It’s something that I’d like to do, maintain velocity throughout the start, but to do that I have to get some efficient outs and make sure I’m not throwing 25- or 30-pitch innings.”
•The weather doesn’t look good, but Girardi said he’s been told the best window to play ball is from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. local time. That’s why he’s planning to stick with Hughes as his starter rather than having a reliever start the game in anticipation of a rain delay. The longest rain-free stretch might be at the very beginning of the game.
• Nick Swisher is back in the lineup at DH, and Girardi expects him to be in right field on Tuesday. Part of the reason Alex Rodriguez was the DH yesterday is that Girardi was planning to have Swisher DH today.
• Pettitte is scheduled for 90-100 pitches this afternoon in Rochester. Girardi said it’s not a sure thing that this will be his final tuneup. “You’ve got to feel his pitches are where they need to be to compete,” Girardi said. Part of the key is making sure Pettitte was able to bounce back after throwing nearly 100 pitches last time out.
• The Yankees will stay on rotation, which means Ivan Nova will start Tuesday, followed by David Phelps and CC Sabathia.
• Brett Gardner will take full batting practice inside today. Assuming he comes through that fine, Girardi said it’s likely he’ll start a rehab assignment on Monday in Rochester. Girardi said Gardner will likely need two or three games. “Really, it depends on how he feels and how he feels he’s swinging,” Girardi said.
• According to Girardi, Eric Chavez is “doing great” and scheduled to see a doctor on Tuesday. The Yankees expect him to come off the disabled list on Thursday, the first day he’s eligible.
• Mariano Rivera is scheduled to see a few different doctors on Monday or Tuesday. While Girardi said there’s an extremely outside chance Rivera could come back at the end of this season, “I think it’s really doubtful,” he said.
Associated Press photos