- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland will soon decide how much of the next phase of Phil Hughes Rules they need to implement, ESPNNewYork.com has learned.
The Yankees have the guidelines for a plan that could give Hughes nearly two weeks of extra days off from now until July 20. The days off would be spread out over the next six weeks and would not be nearly as noticeable as the ones that were implemented for Joba Chamberlain last season.
Girardi and Eiland will make their decisions based on how many innings -- especially high-stress innings -- and pitches that Hughes has thrown thus far.
They could decide that Hughes is right on pace and they don't need to make any adjustments because of how their schedule unfolds.
With June and July around the corner, the largest phase of the Hughes Rules is ideally set to move forward. Because of the four off days in June, including two that sandwich a series against the Dodgers toward the end of the month and the looming All-Star break in July, the Yankees feel they won't have to be as radical as they were with the Joba Rules last season.
They are very hesitant to speak about the plans, because they don't want the Hughes Rules to draw the same fanfare as the Joba Rules.
"That is all up to Joe and Dave," GM Brian Cashman said. "They know just like last year with Joba what the limits are."
Cashman added that Girardi and Eiland will make sure Hughes gets the proper amount of rest because the Yankees believe it is wise to protect young pitchers. The Yankees haven't revealed how many innings Hughes will pitch, but Hughes thinks it is around 175. Hughes has thrown 49 2/3 innings entering his start on Friday.
Without any adjustments to their current starting schedule, the Yankees can rest Hughes without anyone really noticing. With a little manipulation of their rotation, they may be able to give Hughes even more time off. They likely will push him back one day at some point next month to fully take advantage of the All-Star break.
"I'm not ready to discuss that yet," Girardi said.
If they don't adjust the rotation at all, then counting the extra day that Hughes has going into his start on Friday against the Indians, he will have a built-in fifth day off (as opposed to the normal four) in five of his next eight starts.
The big part of the Yankees' Hughes Rules will come around the All-Star break. At that point, the Yankees will likely have Hughes start as many as four days before the break, then coupled with the four-day All-Star intermission, a three-game series to begin the second half and yet another scheduled day off, Hughes could easily have nearly two weeks off in July.
"We'll get to that when we get to that," Eiland said.
Yankees decision makers have formulated these plans so these rules are not as intrusive as last year's were for Chamberlain. They actually may have used a similar setup last season if not for the injury and ineffectiveness of Chien-Ming Wang.
While innings have often been the focal point of the Joba Rules, the more important metric the Yankees look at is Hughes' pitches.
"Some innings are more stressful than others," Eiland said. "You can throw five innings and 100 pitches and it can really take its toll on you because you are really laboring through that or you can throw seven innings and 100 pitches. It is less pitches in an inning and you are not laboring as much. The more you have to labor, the more stress it puts on your arm."
Through eight starts, Hughes has thrown 840 pitches. At this rate, going on the assumption he would make 29 starts, he would finish with 3,045 pitches. This would be 310 more than Chamberlain's 2,735 last year. Although the exact limit is unknown, it is known that he can have more than Chamberlain.
The Yankees likely want to use a similar strategy as the Tigers used with Rick Porcello last season. Prior to the All-Star break the Tigers shut down Porcello for a little more than two weeks. He finished the season with 170 2/3 innings and 2,726 pitches.
Cashman said he didn't want to make any "public opinion" as to what he thought of the Tigers' plan with Porcello.
"We have pitching programs that are all based on things that have happened in recent history and past history," Cashman said.
Cashman added that the 23-year-old Hughes (5-1, 2.72 ERA) has been one of the best pitchers in baseball thus far. The Yankees want to keep him that way -- for a long time.
Phil Hughes could get a fifth day off in five of his next eight starts.