CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phil Hughes, working to return from a bulging disk in his upper back, pitched in a simulated game Monday and should make his next appearance this weekend in a Minor League game.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the right-hander could do so Saturday, while the Yankees' big league club travels to play the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. Hughes has been optimistic that he will be ready to go when his first turn in the starting rotation comes around, but there's a possibility he'll have to miss his first start.
If Hughes isn't ready to pitch the first time the Yankees need a fifth starter, they will likely just use both fifth-starter candidates -- Ivan Nova and David Phelps -- the first time through the rotation and carry an extra long reliever, perhaps right-hander Adam Warren or lefty Vidal Nuno.
"That's probably what we would do," Girardi said. "You could take eight relievers, too. I'd prefer to keep the five-man rotation, but if we have to make a little adjustment, we can."
Girardi confirmed that the Yankees' plan, at this point, is still to use whoever loses the fifth-starter competition as the long reliever in the bullpen when Hughes slots back into the rotation.
"But that could change," Girardi said.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.