TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list so he can continue pitching in extended spring camp, according to manager Joe Girardi.
While the Yankees have been keeping their options open, the move was anticipated because Hughes has been working to return from a bulging disk in his upper back that interrupted his spring and has kept him out of Grapefruit League action.
"The season is upon us, basically," Hughes said. "I feel like I'm close. Obviously it was a setback, this back thing, but there's nothing I can do about it now. I just have to focus on what I can do going forward these next five days and see what their plan is for me."
Since he will be retroactively assigned to the DL, Hughes would be eligible to rejoin the rotation on April 6 against the Tigers in Detroit, but Girardi said it is likely he would work toward making an April 11 start against the Indians in Cleveland.
"He could do possibly the 6th if we think he's ready, but right now as we have a plan here, I think you plan for giving him two more starts [in extended spring camp]," Girardi said.
"But that doesn't mean it necessarily has to happen. We might feel that he's ready after the next one. We've just got to be prepared for it, more than anything."
With Hughes heading for the disabled list, Girardi said that he expects right-handers Ivan Nova and David Phelps to be in the rotation to begin the season, along with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte.
Phelps, who will start on Wednesday against the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., has had a strong spring. He entered his final spring start with a 2-3 record and 3.97 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances.
Nova, meanwhile, said that his spring has been "not good." Nova was rapped for eight hits and seven runs (six earned) over five-plus innings against the Blue Jays' Class A Dunedin lineup on Wednesday, including two home runs and a hit by pitch.
"It wasn't what I was expecting," said Nova, who walked one and struck out four in a 94-pitch outing. "I was expecting to have a great spring, but I feel really good. It wasn't that bad, either. I didn't think it was that bad. I made a lot of adjustments with my mechanics and my arm, and that's a good point."
Hughes was in action at the Yankees' Himes Avenue complex on Wednesday, tossing five scoreless innings of four-hit ball against the Blue Jays' Class A Lansing lineup. Hughes walked none and struck out four, tossing 52 of 81 pitches for strikes.
"It was fine. I felt better in the beginning than I did toward the end, but I got through it all right," Hughes said. "I got my pitch count up, and now it's just a matter of continuing to build on that and I'll be ready to go."
Hughes will have plenty of company on the disabled list to open the season. The Yankees will also be without outfielder Curtis Granderson, shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, first baseman Mark Teixeira and left-hander Clay Rapada, among others.