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Hughes makes return to Yankees

Hughes makes return to Yankees

NEW YORK -- High expectations accompanied right-hander Phil Hughes as he entered the 2008 season. After he posted a 3-0 record with a 2.73 ERA last September, Yankees fans, management and Hughes himself all held the pitcher to a tall standard.

But things didn't go as planned for the 22-year-old righty.

Hughes struggled with his location early in the season, resulting in an 0-4 record and a 9.00 ERA through six starts with the Bombers. And his chance to bounce back evaporated when Hughes was diagnosed with a fractured right rib that sent him to a stint on the disabled list, taking away most of his season. He had also missed a significant chunk of the 2007 season with a strained left hamstring.

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"Just missing so much time, [I'm] frustrated about that, but at the same time, [I'm] just try to work my way back," Hughes said. "When you're in Tampa, [Fla.], just sitting there not being able to do anything, it's frustrating. But once you're pitching again in the Minor Leagues, you don't really think about it too much. You've got to think about pitching well and that's it."

The young hurler will take the mound Wednesday against the White Sox for his first Major League appearance since April 29. Hughes was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, just one day after a 12-strikeout performance to lead his club to the Governors' Cup title, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi tabbed him for Wednesday's start when a doubleheader Saturday would have forced Sidney Ponson to pitch on short rest.

Though the outing won't be an opportunity for Hughes to make his way into the starting rotation for the remainder of 2008, he can certainly begin to build a case for next season as he looks for his first big league win of the season during the final week at Yankee Stadium.

"You'll watch swings -- that's the first thing I usually watch, swings of the other hitters," Girardi said. "You'll watch his location being down in the zone. I'll watch mixing pitches, being able to throw offspeed sometimes when you're behind in the count."

Girardi added that the experience of working through the Yankees' system to return to the big league mound would be beneficial to Hughes in the future.

"I think it's important for players to have carrots to hang onto in the offseason and tells you, 'This is why I do it. This is what I'm capable of,'" he said. "I still believe he can be a valuable pitcher. I actually believe that the experiences that he went through can help him in the long run, because in this game, you're going to deal with adversity."

Hughes said he felt his biggest problem early in the season was falling behind in the count. He couldn't toss strikes when he wanted to, and once he fell into a hole, it was hard to climb back out of it.

But the righty's success in the Minor Leagues has shown his improvement, and he will look to maintain it on the big league stage Wednesday night.

"I think I'm just more mechanically sound right now," he said. "The ability to repeat my delivery and throw the ball where I want to like I can and like I used to be able to -- that's the biggest thing right now.

"I really am confident right now in my pitching, knowing that I can throw strikes and my other pitches are there. If I can just execute the way I did down [in Triple-A], I think I'll be fine."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Phil Hughes (0-4, 9.00 ERA)
Hughes will get the call on Wednesday as the Yankees play the third of four games with the White Sox. The right-hander was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday after helping to pitch his club to an International League championship, going 1-0 with an 0.69 ERA in postseason play. Hughes has not pitched in the big leagues since April 29 in Detroit, where he suffered a stress fracture in his ninth rib on the right side. He started against the White Sox on April 24 in Chicago but left after two innings due to rain.

CWS: LHP Clayton Richard (2-4, 6.94 ERA)
It's hard to pass up a player with the last name of Broadway to start in New York, but Ozzie Guillen and his coaching staff opted for Richard in Wednesday night's contest. Richard has never faced the Yankees previously, although he did pitch in the Futures Game during All-Star Festivities this year at Yankee Stadium. The southpaw is being called upon to neutralize the powerful left-handed bats in the Yankees' lineup, with New York featuring a 21-22 record against southpaws in 2008.

Tidbits
First baseman Jason Giambi hit his 208th home run as a Yankee in the fourth inning, surpassing teammate Alex Rodriguez for sole possession of 10th place on the franchise's all-time list. ... Right fielder Bobby Abreu did not reach base Tuesday night, snapping a streak of 27 straight games reaching base at Yankee Stadium since July 8. ... Left-hander Andy Pettitte recorded his career-high fifth straight loss, allowing four earned runs in six innings Tuesday.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 17-9, 3.63) vs. White Sox (Javier Vazquez, 12-13, 4.13), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (Carl Pavano, 3-1, 5.26) vs. Orioles (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Alfredo Aceves, 1-0, 1.80) vs. Orioles (TBD), 1:05 p.m. ET

Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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