TAMPA, Fla. -- Phil Hughes didn't turn in the sharpest pitching line from his outing against the Pirates' Class A West Virginia lineup, but the Yankees right-hander is just pleased to be back on the mound.
Hughes is working toward rejoining the Yankees' rotation after being sidelined with a bulging disk in his upper back earlier in camp. He allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over three innings to the Bucs' farm club.
"I feel great, which is goal No. 1," Hughes said. "I got up to  pitches, so I was happy with that. I would have liked to go more than three innings, but it is what it is and hopefully the next one I'm a little bit better, a little bit cleaner out there."
Hughes struck out three and walked none while permitting a home run, tossing 34 pitches for strikes. It seems probable that Hughes will begin the year on the disabled list and miss the first turn through the rotation, rejoining the club on April 6 at the earliest, but general manager Brian Cashman said that decision has not been made yet.
"It's possible. He'll be a close call in the end," Cashman said. "I think he's certainly going in the right direction, but I think it's just a time issue for him. If it's better to start him and backdate him on the DL and have him ready for the next turn of the rotation, we could do that."
Hughes came into the spring with great expectations as the 26-year-old enters his final season under contract with the Yankees before being eligible for free agency. He had been working out at the Yankees' complex in Tampa well before the official report date for pitchers and catchers.
"I was really excited about my prospects for this year, because even in my bullpens I was feeling really, really good," Hughes said. "Then I had to take two weeks off and not do anything, which was tough. Conditioning is part of it, but mentally, I'm just trying to get back and not rush myself."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.