Phil Hughes is no stranger to injuries and rotation competitions. This Spring, he’s experiencing both of them all over again. Though Hughes is a front-runner to land in the New York Yankees’ rotation behind: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, an injury all but assures Ivan Nova is guaranteed a spot and that David Phelps still has a chance.
Ideally, the Yankees would love for Hughes and Nova both to make the rotation, adding some young blood to an otherwise aging staff, coupled with Phelps’ ability as a swing-man the Yankees could use out of the bullpen. However, Hughes has been delayed the start of spring due to a bulging disk in his upper back, and now Joe Girardi is concerned it could affect his starter’s regular season.
“Is it in jeopardy, his starting? It’s possible, yeah,” Girardi said.
In order to be in the rotation, Hughes will need to build up to 75 pitches, which generally takes four or five starts. The right-handed pitcher has yet to take the mound this season and may not be able to by March 14th, the essential cut off to begin his spring and still start his regular season on time.
Girardi confirmed Hughes is still about two weeks away from starting barring any setbacks, which would take him all the way to March 12th from the time the injury took place. The injury first took place February 18th when Hughes experienced back discomfort during fielding drills.
There is room for optimism for the Yankees. Hughes entered Wednesday no longer feeling any pain and can begin a throwing program any time once he is cleared to begin, and the Yankees will not need a fifth starter until April 7th. This would allow an emergency simulated start if Hughes comes up one appearance short.
The Yankees will be relying heavily on their homegrown starter with Andy Pettitte at 40 and Hiroki Kuroda having just turned 38. Additionally, CC Sabathia is coming off of surgery and Ivan Nova trying to rebound from a sophomore slump in 2012. New York does have additional MLB ready starting depth in Phelps and Brett Marshall should injury or ineffectiveness occur.