Hughes was literally unhittable for 6 1/3 innings in the Yankees' 10-1 romp of the Rangers on Tuesday; that's the sweet part. Unfortunately, he is headed to the disabled list with an injured left hamstring, and it will be weeks before he pitches in a Major League game again. He joins fellow starters Mike Mussina (left hamstring), Carl Pavano (right forearm), Jeff Karstens (fractured right fibula) and possibly Chien-Ming Wang (split nail on middle finger) on the list of injured Yankees starters.
The bitter has become the bizarre.
"For the most part, they are not even arm injuries," Mussina said. "I have never seen anything like this, and I have been playing for 17 years. If it's not that, they are getting hit by line drives. Just strange stuff."
Yankees manager Joe Torre has his hands full. He estimates that Hughes' injury will keep the 20-year-old out of the rotation anywhere from 4-6 weeks, and the club's immediate concern is whether Wang will be healthy enough to pitch on Saturday. The right-hander will be evaluated after a bullpen session on Wednesday. Pavano is also scheduled to throw off a mound this week, but his status is also unclear.
The encouraging news for the Yankees is that Mussina is scheduled to return from the disabled list for Thursday's series finale against the Rangers. But stranger things have happened -- and are happening.
Torre said that Hughes' injury is "one of those freak things you certainly cannot explain."
"Especially a youngster, and everything seemed to be fine," Torre said. "It was a cool enough night. Pitch count was not an issue. ... Anything can happen at any time, even though you take all the precautions and you know he did all the right things as far as getting ready for this game. "
With the Yankees leading, 9-0, Hughes left the game with one out in the seventh inning and an 0-2 count on Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira. Hughes finished with 83 pitches, 53 of which were strikes, and he struck out six hitters, walking three.
"It's definitely frustrating and disappointing," Hughes said. "I knew every inning they didn't have a hit yet, but I never thought about the last out in the ninth."
Hughes' last pitch was a curveball. It showed his talent and his age.
"He really tired to bury a curveball, and he extended his body, like up to his knee, which is unusual for him, but he really wanted that pitch," a dejected Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said after the game. "It was obviously important. He extended himself, got over it and that's what happened."
Mussina said that he understood how such an injury can happen to a 20-year-old pitcher in his second Major League game. Hughes was pitching like a veteran. He is still a rookie.
"I was wondering how long he would be able to go," Mussina said. "He's never been deep in a game since his pro career started. He was really dominating."
"That's the frustrating part -- to throw that well and have to stop," he continued. "He felt well and knew where the ball was going. [It's] everything you hope for when you take the mound. To have to leave the mound in that fashion in that kind of game is disappointing and frustrating."
Mussina, like Hughes, knows firsthand the frustration of a hamstring injury. He's not the only one. Wang and Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui have also experienced similar injuries this year, and it appears that players are wondering what the problem is.
"I think that question has already been raised," Mussina said. "I don't know if it has been answered, and I'm not the one to answer it. It's not my job."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.