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Dip in velocity makes Hughes vulnerable

Dip in velocity makes Hughes vulnerable

Dip in velocity makes Hughes vulnerable
NEW YORK -- A difference of a few miles per hour on a fastball may not seem to be a huge problem, but for a Major League starter, it can be the difference between a win and a loss. And it can also be the source of some early-season hand-wringing.

Yankees starter Phil Hughes continued to display diminished velocity in a 10-7 loss to the Tigers on Sunday. He surrendered five runs in four innings, allowing two home runs -- both to Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera -- walking two and striking out only one. Even though Hughes has made just one regular-season start, the Yankees have taken notice of the right-hander's velocity after a similar trend in Spring Training.

"There's going to be concern until you see it," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "That's just natural. I think he probably feels the same way. When you get going and you start to see the velocity, then you can relax a little bit. But until then, we'll try to figure out if there is any routine that will work for him. We've been trying to figure it out through the spring, so we'll continue."

"I feel fine," said Hughes, who the Yankees say is not injured. "So it's just arm strength, or whatever it is. It's not ideally where I want it to be. The first inning, I was like 90 [mph], which is not where I need to be. I need to be at 92 or 93. It's a little disconcerting right now, but we'll take these next few starts and evaluate it from there."

Asked if he can pitch well with his velocity where it is now, Hughes said that doing so would remove his margin for error.

"Anybody can, I think," Hughes said. "But I made too many mistakes over the plate. Jaime Moyer has been doing it for years. I attack guys, and I'm aggressive, so if my velocity is a bit down, I can't get away with as many mistakes."

Hughes, who averaged 92.5 mph with his fastball in 2010, according to Fangraphs.com, had trouble reaching 90 on Sunday. Despite getting two strikes on 12 hitters, Hughes recorded only one strikeout.

"I'm more concerned about guys locating the baseball -- that's the key," manager Joe Girardi said. "And he just didn't do it today."

Hughes and the Yankees can do little more than cross their fingers and hope the right-hander's velocity returns. The 24-year-old has gone through periods like this before, and the team has already tried varying his routine between starts.

"We may try to do a little bit more long toss and try to generate a little bit more," Rothschild said of Hughes' arm strength. "There's no easy way to get there. It just has to happen naturally."

"Hopefully, it comes around," Hughes said. "It did last year, so hopefully, it just comes around a little bit later."

-- Thomas Boorstein

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