- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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BALTIMORE -- If New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes comes through his bullpen session fine on Saturday, he thinks he could then be shipped out to the minors for his first rehab start in search of his missing fastball.
"It sounds like, if everything goes well [on Saturday], I will be able to make a rehab start," said Hughes.
Hughes, who is on the disabled list with a "dead arm," does not know where he will go. He said he could have one more bullpen, but either way he is hopeful to make his first rehab start next week. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild will ultimately decide the next course of action.
"I should feel fresh," Hughes said.
Unable to consistently pump his fastball above 91 mph, Hughes has started the year with a 13.94 ERA. On average, he has lasted less than four innings in his three starts.
Hughes is still trying to pinpoint why he has started so slow, but has one theory.
"I took some time off from throwing [this winter]," Hughes said.
Hughes started his offseason in mid-December, which is normal for him. He said he just didn't throw as much to combat the career-most 192 innings he pitched last year. Now, Hughes is trying to make up for lost time.
"With the amount of innings I threw last year and things like that, I just needed more of a head start on my throwing program to make up for the fact that my arm had broken down so much," Hughes said. "Coming off my first season of throwing a full season, I wasn't really sure how I would bounce back."
A New York Post blog item reported that Hughes came to camp a few pounds overweight. While not denying that Hughes showed up with a few extra pounds, neither Hughes nor Rothschild felt that had anything to do with Hughes' poor start.
"Look, it is two months into it," Rothschild said. "Even if he wasn't in great shape coming into spring training, by now he is in great shape. He came down to spring training a week early. That's an easy way to put it and an easy answer, but that is not what has happened."
"You would still see the velocity. He might run out of gas, but you would still see it. Look, he is a 24-year-old kid. I know all the conditioning stuff. It is not that I ignore it. In this case, that is not what has happened. It just doesn't add up."
Hughes still doesn't know if his velocity is back because there is no gun in the bullpen. Hughes said it wouldn't matter if there was because there is no adrenaline there either, so his fastball would not have the same power as it would in a game.
"That would frustrate me even more," Hughes said. "Without the adrenaline it is hard to tell. My arm strength feels good."
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.