- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- The speed gun didn't register 95 mph, nor did he have the command he hoped for, but New York Yankees starter Phil Hughes left his second rehab start feeling good about his progression.
After a great first rehab start since going on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, Hughes' velocity slipped slightly and he struggled with his command as he pitched for the Double-A Trenton Thunder Friday night against the New Britain Rock Cats. Hughes threw 72 pitches in 3 1/3 innings, giving up one run on three hits while striking out three.
"I wasn't as sharp as last time, I felt like I was uncharacteristically wild a little bit, but the biggest thing was I felt good and it was a step in the right direction," Hughes said. "I didn't want to throw that many pitches, but it's all building up arm strength and making sure everything feels good."
In the Yankees' clubhouse Saturday morning, Hughes said he expects to make another rehab start with Trenton Wednesday afternoon.
"I think that's where I'm going," Hughes said. "But obviously it could change."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was uncertain when asked to give a timetable as to when Hughes will return.
"I can't tell you," Girardi said. "When we think he's ready, we'll call him back."
In Hughes' first rehab start Sunday with the Class A Staten Island Yankees, he hit 95 mph. He tossed 61 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and one run while striking out seven.
Pitching on his 25th birthday Friday, Hughes topped out at 93 mph, hitting the mark seven times in the first two innings. He was consistently around 89 mph to 91 mph, with his velocity tailing off in the game. Hughes had a pitch count of 75, and he threw 42 of his pitches for strikes.
"It wasn't as good as my first start," Hughes said. "But it was a step in the right direction. My velocity from what I gathered was pretty good, certainly a lot better than it was here, so that's good."
Hughes breezed through the first two innings, but struggled to put away hitters later in the game.
In the fourth, after walking the leadoff batter, he gave up a one-out single on a slow ball to second and then an RBI single in the infield following a 10-pitch at-bat. Hughes was pulled with men on first and second and the score tied at 1-1, but the Thunder got out of the inning.
Although the final stats might not have been pretty, Hughes said he feels better physically now than he did when he struggled.
"To have maybe ... one inning when I'm at 91 [mph] and then dip down to 87, that's just not me, I need to kind of maintain that 91, 92, 93 velocity for a good portion of the game and I just feel like the ball is coming out pretty good right now," Hughes said. "That's encouraging. Command-wise not good today, but at least the stuff is there and I feel good and can worry about location."
The Yankees placed Hughes on the disabled list April 15 with inflammation in his shoulder after watching his velocity disappear. Hughes averaged just 89.3 mph on his fastball in his three starts, according to FanGraphs.com, and was 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA.
Before the game, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Hughes' next start will probably be with Trenton again, with a pitch count of about 90, and his timeline accounts for probably two to three more starts.
"Depends on what's going on in New York, too," Cashman said. "If all hell breaks loose up top, we might not be in a position to finish him off as easy as we want. It's in his best interest to probably get two more starts, but we'll see."
Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo contributed to this report.
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