To preserve Hughes, Yanks to skip next start

To preserve Hughes, Yanks to skip next start

PHOENIX -- If there had been some third-inning exits or growing pains for Phil Hughes during this standout season he has enjoyed, perhaps the Yankees could have waited longer to skip his first start of the year.

But Hughes has pitched like an All-Star thus far, leading the Bombers with 10 victories, and those starts have clicked up his odometer a little too quickly. The Yankees have thus decided to skip Hughes' next start, pushing him back to next pitch on June 29 at home against the Mariners.

"This is a hard guy to sit to miss a start, just because of how well he's pitching for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But we can't be shortsighted.

"We have to think of this year and we also have to think of his future, and not hurting this kid. Starters are not easy to develop and it takes time. We want to make sure that we have him for a long time."

The Yankees have not publicly stated what the 23-year-old Hughes' innings cap is, but it is believed to be between 170 and 180 innings. Hughes has hurled 82 1/3 innings, going 10-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 13 starts that have largely been clunker-free.

"When you're pitching well, it means you're going deeper into games and the innings start to pile up," Hughes said. "There's still a ways to go before the halfway point. It's something that I knew was coming, it was just a matter of when."

Hughes acknowledged there was some disappointment in the timing of the organization's decision, for personal reasons. His next start would have came on Friday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, close to his home of Santa Ana, Calif. CC Sabathia will have the ball that night instead.

"There's definitely disappointment," Hughes said. "Joe told me that if I wasn't disappointed he'd be a little worried. Sometimes it's what needs to be done and I'll just take advantage of the few extra days off and prepare for Seattle back home."

"He doesn't like it," Girardi said. "I don't think there's any player in his right mind that would like it. But he understands what we're doing. That doesn't mean he has to do cartwheels out there."

A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte will be the other scheduled starters during the weekend in Los Angeles. In the meantime, Hughes' lifting program will remain the same and he will stall his bullpen session until Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

"I don't really view having a couple of extra days off as being a setback," Hughes said. "I don't believe in that. I'm going to take the approach of taking advantage of extra rest and hopefully be strong in my next start."

The Yankees have been optimistic that the restrictions on Hughes will be less noticeable than they were last year for Joba Chamberlain -- during Hughes' session with the media discussing the move, Chamberlain stepped in and offered a knowing high-five.

The plans for Chamberlain were similar, but extraneous factors interceded; for example, the Yankees needed Chamberlain to pitch more because Chien-Ming Wang was lost to injury. Hughes is also more polished pitcher at this point in terms of Minor League innings, which also helps.

"It's hard for anybody to predict if they need it or not," Hughes said. "Some guys obviously didn't. Nolan Ryan never needed an innings limit, but some guys did. It's impossible for me to say if I do or not. But they want to be on the safe side and I respect that. Obviously they have my best interests in mind."

Girardi confirmed that this will be the only time Hughes is skipped before the All-Star break. His next starts would come on June 29 vs. Seattle, July 4 vs. Toronto and July 9 at Seattle, leading into the All-Star Game at Angel Stadium -- a contest Hughes deserves serious consideration for attending.

"We'll worry about that when it comes," Girardi said. "Right now we're just concerned with our season."