Hughes feels strong, but arm needs time
Yankees encouraged after right-hander's bullpen session
TORONTO -- In the quiet space of a domed stadium, Phil Hughes' fastball repeatedly popped the catcher's glove, the sound of the impact echoing off empty seats beyond the right-field wall.
In the first step toward getting back on a mound and facing big league hitters, the Yankees right-hander threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session on Wednesday, reporting no discomfort and some encouragement.
"I'm doing everything I can do," Hughes said. "It's really just one of those things where I need to do everything I can do to get my arm where it needs to be."
Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild watched the session, searching for signs that Hughes is getting over the "dead arm" fatigue that has kept his fastball around 88-91 mph this season.
"He looked like his arm was a little quicker," Girardi said. "He'll have [Thursday] off, and then he'll get back to the long toss. He said he feels better."
Hughes said he won't really be able to tell how effective he may be until he begins facing Minor League hitters on a rehab assignment.
Hughes is also curious to see how his arm responds when he makes it to the third and fourth innings, where his velocity had been falling off. To simulate that, Rothschild suggested that Hughes may sit down after 15 pitches in his next bullpen session before continuing.
Hughes said that he is also taking anti-inflammatories as a precaution to guard against any further flare-ups, given all of the increased exercises and the strengthening program on his shoulder.
"It's just a matter of seeing how my arm bounces back, and I won't know that until I get in a game situation," Hughes said. "Right now, everything I'm doing, I feel good with -- my arm program, long toss, bullpens, workouts. That's really all I can gauge right now."
'Houdini' role seems to find Robertson
TORONTO -- With a tailing fastball and a good curve, Dave Robertson is well-equipped for situations that demand a strikeout, and the right-hander seems to have a knack for wriggling free of jams.
Robertson pulled off another of his "Houdini" acts on Tuesday, striking out both Yunel Escobar and Travis Snider to leave the bases loaded in the sixth inning, preserving a lead for starter A.J. Burnett.
The Yankees went on to lose, 6-5, in 10 innings, but no one could blame Robertson for that. His performance especially frustrated the Blue Jays, as Snider snapped his bat over his knee and discarded the useless lumber on the artificial turf.
"I'm used to those situations, but I'm not comfortable," Robertson said. "That's about the best way I can say it. I'm not coming in like, 'This is just as easy as throwing an inning with a 10-run lead.' Because it's not."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he senses Robertson has grown better at turning the page after bad games, which is not always an easy quality to acquire. Robertson swears he feels nerves on the mound, but he doesn't seem to show them.
"I feel like every reliever has the same attitude," Robertson said. "You're going to have a bad day, and then you've got to forget about it, because the next day you might be back in there again, and you can turn everything around with a couple of pitches."
Of course, Robertson made an indelible mark in Yankees history during the 2009 American League Division Series, when he got out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the 11th inning of Game 2 to set up Mark Teixeira's game-winning homer.
"I still don't understand," Robertson said. "I was extremely lucky to get out of that one. It's possible to get out of anything. The trick is just to avoid getting into those jams."
Cervelli on target for early May return
TORONTO -- Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Tampa on Thursday and appears on track to rejoin the big league roster by early May.
Cervelli fractured his left foot upon hitting a foul ball off himself in a Grapefruit League game on March 2. He resumed catching in extended spring action this week.
Given his track record, it seems likely that Cervelli will be able to reclaim the backup catcher's job from Gustavo Molina as soon as he proves he is healthy and ready.
"He's getting closer," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You've got to make sure his timing is down, and you'd like to see him catch a couple of days in a row. You want to know that he's in shape enough to do that in case Russell [Martin] needs a couple of days off."