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NYY@BOS: Lackey labors through the first inning

BOSTON -- It was a fitting ending to an awful afternoon for Phil Hughes, sent back to the clubhouse by the Red Sox after only two innings, only to find that the Fenway Park renovations hadn't exactly made their way to the shower area.

Unable to change out of his uniform, Hughes sat and stewed at his locker, watching the Red Sox go on to win a slugfest, 9-6, over his Yankees in the home opener at Fenway Park. While he waited, Hughes pondered his value to the team if he's not able to find his missing velocity -- and quickly.

"I don't feel like I'm bringing anything to the team right now, and that's a tough thing to deal with," Hughes said. "We can't keep giving away games like this."

Hughes was not saddled with the loss after giving up six runs, having been taken off the hook by Alex Rodriguez's fifth-inning solo homer off Boston starter John Lackey, but the right-hander's ineffectiveness damaged the Yankees' chances considerably on a day when they staked him to leads of 2-0 and 3-1.

By the time Jarrod Saltalamacchia pelted the Green Monster with a run-scoring double off an otherwise effective Bartolo Colon, putting the Red Sox ahead for good in the fifth and on the way to their first win of the season, Hughes was already deep into contemplation mode.

After winning a career-high 18 games last year, Hughes has made two starts spanning six innings, allowing 11 runs to the Tigers and Red Sox. The Yankees called to the bullpen on Friday after seeing just 47 pitches from Hughes.

"He's just not sharp," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's just not throwing the baseball very well, like he's capable of doing. We've got to get him right. We'll get him there."

The Yankees are well aware that Hughes' velocity has dipped from last season, when he'd max out near the mid-90s on the radar gun. On Friday, Hughes was more in the neighborhood of 88-90 mph, and while Girardi has pointed out that Jamie Moyer and Mike Mussina were able to succeed in those zones by locating well, Hughes' higher velocities have always been part of his calling card.

"I'm just lost right now," Hughes said. "It's a tough thing to deal with. You're used to having something there, and it's not. ... Eighty-nine to 90, maybe an occasional 91, it just isn't going to get it done -- especially for me, relying on a fastball as much as I do."

Instead, Hughes tried to hide the problem by throwing more cutters or ramping up on the fastballs he did fire. The Red Sox weren't fooled.

"It just looks like he's trying to overcompensate right now," catcher Russell Martin said. "It looks like he's kind of searching for a couple more miles per hour."

Robinson Cano's two-run double gave the Yankees a first-inning lead, but Dustin Pedroia immediately chipped back in the home half, slugging a solo homer -- his first of the season -- down the left-field line and into the Green Monster seats, the first of three RBIs for the Boston second baseman.

"His cutter was sharp; it was just up in the zone," said Pedroia, who came into the game 1-for-13 against Hughes. "The home run I hit was just up in the zone. But he has great stuff."

Brett Gardner rapped back with an RBI double in the second, but the Red Sox erased all of that work with a five-run second inning off Hughes, opening the frame with three consecutive singles. After a run-scoring groundout, Jacoby Ellsbury and Marco Scutaro came in on a Pedroia RBI single and a Curtis Granderson throwing error.

Adrian Gonzalez punched an RBI single against the shift to bring in the fifth Boston run, and a David Ortiz single sent Gonzalez home as Kevin Youkilis got caught in a rundown between second and third bases. After that, the Yankees had seen enough, knowing Hughes is suffering from a drought of arm strength that puzzled them all spring.

"I think it's temporary," Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "I don't think it's something you're going to see all year; at least I would hope not. I don't know if he's lost it or just hasn't built up all the way yet. Some guys are slow like that, and he's clearly right now one of them."

Lackey's win wasn't pretty, but it was official. Despite allowing six runs on seven hits in a five-inning outing, touched for New York runs in every inning he pitched, the right-hander was credited with the victory when Boston's bullpen -- including former Yankee Alfredo Aceves, making his Red Sox debut with a scoreless sixth -- limited the Yankees to one hit the rest of the way.

"My command was fine," Lackey said. "Every ball they hit was kind of down the line for extra-base hits. If I keep them in the middle, a lot of those turn into singles and no runs."

Some of the few highlights of the game on the Yankees' side were statistical. Rodriguez's homer marked the 616th of his career and also his 1,836th career RBI, moving him past Rafael Palmeiro and pulling him even with Ken Griffey Jr. for 13th place on baseball's all-time list.

J.D. Drew extended Boston's advantage in the seventh with a two-run single to right field off Boone Logan, who is battling difficulties of his own. The lone lefty in New York's bullpen with Pedro Feliciano on the disabled list, Logan has allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Jonathan Papelbon polished off the Yankees in the ninth for his first save, closing out the 100th home opener at Fenway Park. But the Yankees have greater concerns with Hughes, whom they promise isn't hiding an injury but still would be hurting the team if he continues to perform this way.

"I can try to find a way to get it going," Hughes said. "I'm confident it'll be there. I'm not injured or anything like that. It's not like it just disappeared." Comments