Yanks encouraged by Phil Hughes

4/24/2011 - MLB Phil Hughes New York Yankees + more

BALTIMORE -- With his "dead arm" feeling more alive, New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes is one more successful bullpen away from making a minor league start, according to pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

From all accounts, Hughes' bullpen session went well Saturday. It was good enough that Hughes thinks he will be on a mound Thursday.

"The plan is right now I will start a minor league game in five days," Hughes said.

Rothschild was encouraged, but he would not go that far yet. He said that he wanted to see how Hughes feels Sunday and for Hughes to throw one more bullpen before the plan to make a minor league start becomes official. On Thursday, the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, Scranton, plays at Charlotte, while Double-A Trenton is at Richmond.

In the short term, all involved said progress is being made. However, there is no radar gun in the bullpen so it is hard to fully tell if Hughes' velocity has returned. The reason he was put on the DL was because his dead arm would not allow him to fire his fastball above 91 mph on a consistent basis. Often, in his first three starts, he could only hit 88-90 mph.

Scouts first noticed the issue in spring training. Hughes has begun the year 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA.
On Saturday, Rothschild thought Hughes had some juice in on his pitches. Hughes threw long-toss, a full-game warm-up and then completed three sessions of 15 pitches. He sat down between each 15-pitch sequence as he would during a start. Hughes said he felt no "deadness" in his arm.

"Larry felt that he got stronger and that is not what we saw his last start," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It seems that this time has been beneficial."

Hughes is on the verge of going to the minors, where he said with the fans in the crowd, the adrenaline flowing, he will find out if there is life on his fastball. So far, though, Hughes think his time on the DL has been for good.

"I expected to not have any issues and feel good," Hughes said. "That is what I accomplished, I think. I think I threw the ball pretty well. I threw a no-hitter. That is a step in the right direction."

Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.