Phil Hughes has been dominant in relief and seems to have found "something" that wasn't there as a starter. Maybe this is what he is and they found it by accident. What do you think?
-- Paul P., Copley, Pa.

It is surprising how well Hughes has made the adjustment from a starting pitcher to a multiple-innings reliever, so much so to the point that the Yankees aren't even afraid to pitch him on back-to-back days, even though that hasn't happened yet.

Not by coincidence, Hughes' velocity has seen a jump since he moved to the bullpen, even though this wasn't the original plan. Of course Hughes would prefer to stick in the big leagues -- the pay, travel, everything is better; no one grows up dreaming of pitching in Triple-A -- but even though relieving isn't his first choice, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have been impressed by his open mind.

Let's not forget that Hughes isn't far removed from being touted as a top prospect, so we shouldn't be completely stunned that he's finding success. But, looking to cut off another Joba Chamberlain debate at the pass, the Yankees are making sure people know Hughes really is a starter masquerading as a reliever.

As Cashman said in Atlanta: "Anybody who is a good starter is going to be a [heckuva] setup guy, I promise you. Anybody who has a plus fastball and a plus secondary pitch would make a great setup guy or closer, in theory. But it's not the same."

Do you think the Yankees will consider replacing Joe Girardi with someone like Tony Pena for the rest of the season and look for a permanent replacement in the offseason?
-- Brian B., Southampton, N.Y.

This e-mail was sent before the Yankees turned their skid into a winning road trip, but it deserves to be answered anyway because there has been some media discussion of this topic lately. Any idea of a Girardi job watch would seem extremely premature: there have been no warning shots fired across the bow, and the Yankees remain right in the playoff hunt, three games out of the division entering play on Monday.

It's no secret what the situation is in New York -- Girardi cannot miss the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and expect to be employed in 2010, that much is true, and Girardi has acknowledged that. But unless the Yankees fall ridiculously out of the hunt, Girardi should have all of 2009 to make his case.

Cashman gave him a vote of confidence in Atlanta and said the players are behind Girardi, and there has been little evidence to the contrary. This is Girardi's team, and let's not forget, he -- not Don Mattingly, not Pena -- was ownership's choice to lead the club. They want to see him succeed just as much as he needs to.

I see Jose Molina is getting close again to coming back. What does this mean for Francisco Cervelli? The pitchers seem to like throwing to him and he has given them a spark.
-- Jerry E., Tampa, Fla.

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All indications are that the Yankees will not carry three catchers because of the way their roster is constructed right now, so it will probably mean that Cervelli will have to go down to Triple-A when Molina is ready to return.

There's no shame in that. He's 23 and, while he's enjoyed some success in the big leagues, there is more development that can take place. He should head down and feel good about what he accomplished, but it wasn't like he was going to steal the job. Molina is a legitimate big league backup catcher and the Yankees are paying him well to do that.

What is the plan with Hideki Matsui? Is there any chance of seeing him in the field this year, and what about next season?
-- Matt C., New York, N.Y.

The Yankees played around with that idea during Interleague Play, but obviously it didn't happen because the medical staff was fearful any defensive duty would force Matsui's knees to "blow up," in Girardi's words, and they'd lose him for a significant amount of time.

At this point, in the Yankees' eyes, Matsui is a designated hitter and only that. It seems unlikely that the Yankees would pursue Matsui at the end of the season, and his future is uncertain. Earlier this year, Matsui said he understands the situation and would like to finally win the World Series he thought was imminent in New York.

Why don't the Yankees go after Matt Holliday and sign him up long term? I think he'd be a nice fit at Yankee Stadium.
-- Ron L., Franklin, Mass.

When Cashman popped in on the Yankees in Atlanta, he expressed confidence that the answers were in the room and that they did not need to pursue a hitter at this time, believing that they have plenty of accomplished big leaguers to get the job done.

"We don't need a bat," Cashman said then. "All the bats are here. I have no doubt about that. We have a tremendous offense that is scuffling right now. The only way we need a bat is if we have injuries."

That was before they learned Xavier Nady is probably out for the year, but the point stands since they couldn't really count on his return anyway. If the Yankees are to do anything before the Trade Deadline, I would expect to see them pursue bullpen help.