09/14/08 1:30 PM ET
Yankees slot Hughes back into rotation
Young right-hander will start against White Sox on Wednesday
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Chalk those up to Phil Hughes' final lessons while pitching in the International League.
Two days after pitching the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees to an International League title, Hughes joined the big league club in New York and slotted back into the starting rotation. He joked about a 12-strikeout performance in Friday's clincher being due to bad lighting, but his recall was no accident.
"We went on a good run there, so I'm pretty happy about that," Hughes said. "I felt good and I've been throwing the ball well lately, so hopefully I'll get into a couple of games here."
Hughes will start on Wednesday against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium, making his first appearance on the big league level since April 29 at Detroit. The 22-year-old began the season in New York's rotation but went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in six starts before he was diagnosed with a fractured right rib that cost him much of the season.
After a brief rehab assignment at the lower levels of the Yankees' system, Hughes was promoted to Triple-A in early August and went 1-0 with a 5.90 ERA in six regular-season starts. He started slowly but said he began to feel more like himself in the final couple of outings, setting up a dominant postseason run when the right-hander limited the Durham Bulls to one run in 13 innings to help secure the trophy.
With months of workouts at the Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla., and the Minor League schedule behind him, Hughes had plenty of time to ponder how a promising season had gone wrong. He opts not to, instead looking to turn the page.
"I never tried to figure out what happened this year," Hughes said. "I just tried to move forward and pitch well from here on out. I'll go to the [Arizona] Fall League and get some innings in, and come into next spring ready to go."
In his brief big league career, Hughes -- the Yankees' No. 1 pick in 2004 -- has suffered two major setbacks after being relatively injury-free for most of the time preceding it. He was 6 1/3 innings into a no-hit bid on May 1 of last season at Texas, his second big league start, before being forced to exit with a strained left hamstring.
That memorable event, combined with the still-unexplained fractured rib this season, has raised the question of if Hughes may be injury-prone in some way. He dismisses the criticism.
"I don't really believe in fantasies that guys just happen to have injuries all the time," Hughes said. "I've had a couple of weird things, and hopefully that's the end of it. I was thankful it's nothing with my arm, so that's the main concern."
Hughes -- who has switched back to his original uniform number, No. 65 -- said that he felt as though he could have returned earlier, and admitted it was "frustrating" being told to err on the side of caution when he was pain-free.
But he trusted the Yankees' physicians, who recommended a longer period of rest to heal the rib, and has seen dividends -- particularly in his last two starts, when Hughes' breaking stuff and velocity were sharp and close to big league ready. He hopes to see the payoff continue later this year, when Hughes will join the Peoria Javelinas of the AFL.
"It's nice to end the year feeling good, finally," Hughes said.
Hughes and right-hander Dave Robertson were the latest additions to the Yankees' roster from Triple-A on Saturday, and the club has 11 remaining spots before it would reach the 40-man maximum. Girardi said that it was possible that Ian Kennedy would be recalled after the Triple-A club plays the Pacific Coast League champions in Tuesday's "Brickyard Showdown" in Oklahoma City.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.