Pitching coach Larry Rothschild acknowledged that he has some dates in mind for Phil Hughes; milestones Hughes needs to achieve — on schedule — in order to open the season on the active roster. Of course, it would be nice to have some specifics.
“It just slipped my mind,” Rothschild said. “You know, when you get older, some of that stuff (starts to go).”
Truth is, Rothschild doesn’t want to go public with Hughes’ schedule. Even Hughes himself said he doesn’t know the exact dates beyond Thursday’s scheduled batting practice session. Rothschild wants Hughes to focus on one step at a time, and so he won’t reveal more than necessary.
“The next time is the BP on Thursday,” Rothschild said. “Then we’ll see where he is. Probably do a sim game after that and see where things go. If we can accelerate it at that point comfortably, then well try to do that. It has to be effectiveness as well as health. All that stuff is going to come into play.”
Perhaps dropping a hint about the Hughes plan, Rothschild said he’s thought about using the April 2 off day to push back Hughes’ first start of the regular season. CC Sabathia could come back on normal rest to pitch April 6, leaving Hughes to make his debut on April 7. Counting backwards, Hughes could pitch a simulated game on Monday, March 18, then pitch every fifth day and be on schedule for April 7. That plan would give him the simulated game, two regular spring training starts, plus some sort of start on that April 2 off day.
“I think it’s reasonable (that Hughes could be ready),” Rothschild said. “We’ll be smart about what we’re seeing and looking at, take it step by step. If it looks like we need to back off, we’ll back off; not necessarily because of the injury but just because of where he is as far as how much work he’s been able to do.”
The Yankees have an easy fall-back plan because both Ivan Nova and David Phelps have pitched well this spring, but Rothschild made it clear that Hughes will pitch that first turn through the rotation if at all possible.
“If he can be back feasibly without any downside, then you do that,” Rothschild said.
Associated Press photo