Coming off a second straight season marred by injuries, New York Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes is spending the early portion of his offseason working to regain the form that had him touted as one of the top young pitching prospects in the game.
Hughes struck out seven and allowed just one hit over five scoreless innings as the host Peoria Javelinas topped the Surprise Rafters, 10-3, in their Arizona Fall League opener on Tuesday.
"It was good. It's been a little bit since my last start, so I'm trying to work out a little bit of rust," said Hughes (1-0), who pitched for the first time since Sept. 24, when he allowed two runs on five hits over eight innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tuesday afternoon, he allowed a single to the second batter he faced (Ivan DeJesus), plunked one (Nolan Reimold) and walked five. He threw 86 pitches in all -- 49 for strikes. Afterward, he maintained he's still a work in progress.
"The walks were a result of not being out there in a while," Hughes said. "My fastball command wasn't what I would've liked it to have been, but you expect that after not having stepped on the mound in a game situation. My breaking ball was working and, when I got ahead, everything seemed to fall into place."
After beginning the season in the Yankees rotation, Hughes suffered a stress fracture in one of his ribs and was placed on the disabled list following a start against Detroit on April 29. He didn't see action again until July 29, when he made two starts for Class A Charleston RiverDogs and six more starts for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
He pitched Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to its first Governors' Cup title in team history by striking out 12 over five innings Sept. 12, then rejoined New York for two starts to close out the season. In total, he pitched just 69 2/3 innings on the season. He was limited to 110 1/3 innings in 2007 due to a strained hamstring suffered during a May 1 start against the Texas Rangers.
He's making the most of his time in Arizona.
"The biggest thing for me is getting some innings," Hughes said. "My season was cut pretty short with the injuries. It's frustrating but there's nothing you can do about it. Here I can work on some things I wouldn't necessarily be able to work on in the big leagues where everything counts."
Yankees center-field prospect Austin Jackson tripled and drove in four runs in the winning effort. Jackson hit .285 with nine homers, 33 doubles, 75 runs scored and 69 RBIs in 131 games for the Eastern League-champion Trenton Thunder in Double-A. He was named a midseason All-Star and the Most Valuable Player in the league playoffs.
Carlos Triunfel (Mariners) scored three times and Rhyne Hughes (Rays) went 3-for-5 for Peoria (1-0).
Brian McFall (Royals) drove in two runs and Orioles catching prospect Matt Wieters tripled and scored twice for the Rafters (0-1). Wieters was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .355 with 27 homers and 91 RBIs in 130 games between the Class A Advanced Frederick Keys of the Carolina League and the Double-A Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League.
Surprise starter Willie Eyre (0-1) allowed three runs on two hits over 2 2/3 innings. The Rangers farmhand struck out three and walked two.
Steve Conley is a contributor to MLB.com. Kristen Zimmerman also contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.