Hughes feels strong, but arm needs time

Hughes feels strong, but arm needs time

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."