Sidelined since Sept. 12 with lower back stiffness, Hughes tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Yankees in Monday's 5-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field, issuing two walks and striking out a batter while allowing one hit. He's also expected to pitch again on Wednesday in preparation for the American League Division Series.
"After the back issue, I guess that pretty much sealed my fate," Hughes said. "But just being here is a good thing. I'll try to do my best to help out of the bullpen."
Hughes entered play on Monday with a 5-5 record and a 6.00 ERA in 15 games (14 starts). Though he has made 43 starts in the last two years, Hughes was used almost exclusively as a reliever in 2009, going 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA in 44 appearances out of the bullpen.
"He can be a multiple-inning guy for us [or] be a one-inning guy," manager Joe Girardi said. "We've seen him have a lot of success out of there. And that's why we think it's important to get him in there a couple of times."
Getting back to that mindset shouldn't be a problem, Hughes said, and he hopes that a good postseason could turn around a disappointing followup to his 18-win All-Star campaign in 2010.
"There's no way to change that at this point," Hughes said. "It's just motivation for next year. Obviously, you never want to go through years like this, but fortunately on a team like this, you have an opportunity to win every year. Hopefully, we can make the most of October."