To preserve Hughes, Yanks to skip next start
Righty to sit LA homecoming, return to hill on June 29
PHOENIX -- If there had been some third-inning exits or growing pains for Phil Hughes during this standout season he has enjoyed, perhaps the Yankees could have waited longer to skip his first start of the year.
But Hughes has pitched like an All-Star thus far, leading the Bombers with 10 victories, and those starts have clicked up his odometer a little too quickly. The Yankees have thus decided to skip Hughes' next start, pushing him back to next pitch on June 29 at home against the Mariners.
"This is a hard guy to sit to miss a start, just because of how well he's pitching for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But we can't be shortsighted.
"We have to think of this year and we also have to think of his future, and not hurting this kid. Starters are not easy to develop and it takes time. We want to make sure that we have him for a long time."
The Yankees have not publicly stated what the 23-year-old Hughes' innings cap is, but it is believed to be between 170 and 180 innings. Hughes has hurled 82 1/3 innings, going 10-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 13 starts that have largely been clunker-free.
"When you're pitching well, it means you're going deeper into games and the innings start to pile up," Hughes said. "There's still a ways to go before the halfway point. It's something that I knew was coming, it was just a matter of when."
Hughes acknowledged there was some disappointment in the timing of the organization's decision, for personal reasons. His next start would have came on Friday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, close to his home of Santa Ana, Calif. CC Sabathia will have the ball that night instead.
"There's definitely disappointment," Hughes said. "Joe told me that if I wasn't disappointed he'd be a little worried. Sometimes it's what needs to be done and I'll just take advantage of the few extra days off and prepare for Seattle back home."
"He doesn't like it," Girardi said. "I don't think there's any player in his right mind that would like it. But he understands what we're doing. That doesn't mean he has to do cartwheels out there."
A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte will be the other scheduled starters during the weekend in Los Angeles. In the meantime, Hughes' lifting program will remain the same and he will stall his bullpen session until Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
"I don't really view having a couple of extra days off as being a setback," Hughes said. "I don't believe in that. I'm going to take the approach of taking advantage of extra rest and hopefully be strong in my next start."
The Yankees have been optimistic that the restrictions on Hughes will be less noticeable than they were last year for Joba Chamberlain -- during Hughes' session with the media discussing the move, Chamberlain stepped in and offered a knowing high-five.
The plans for Chamberlain were similar, but extraneous factors interceded; for example, the Yankees needed Chamberlain to pitch more because Chien-Ming Wang was lost to injury. Hughes is also more polished pitcher at this point in terms of Minor League innings, which also helps.
"It's hard for anybody to predict if they need it or not," Hughes said. "Some guys obviously didn't. Nolan Ryan never needed an innings limit, but some guys did. It's impossible for me to say if I do or not. But they want to be on the safe side and I respect that. Obviously they have my best interests in mind."
Girardi confirmed that this will be the only time Hughes is skipped before the All-Star break. His next starts would come on June 29 vs. Seattle, July 4 vs. Toronto and July 9 at Seattle, leading into the All-Star Game at Angel Stadium -- a contest Hughes deserves serious consideration for attending.
"We'll worry about that when it comes," Girardi said. "Right now we're just concerned with our season."
Yanks recall Curtis for Interleague flexibility
PHOENIX -- Looking for a versatile left-handed bat in this Interleague stretch, the Yankees summoned outfielder Colin Curtis from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday.
Curtis was hitting .280 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 35 games at Triple-A. The Arizona State product was a fourth-round Draft selection in 2006 and could offer the Yankees flexibility for double-switch situations or pinch-hitting opportunities, manager Joe Girardi said.
In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees designated catcher Chad Moeller for assignment. Curtis had been considered earlier in the season to be called up to New York, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in late April.
"I missed a month and got back and started playing," Curtis said. "It was a little rough for about a week or two, and then the last week or so I was feeling good again."
Girardi said he asked for a left-handed hitter in part because the D-backs' bullpen is comprised of all right-handed pitchers.
Moeller's removal is also a sign that the Yankees are confident that Jorge Posada's right foot -- which he fractured in May -- is not going to be an issue. Girardi said it is possible Posada could catch four of six games on this trip, though back-to-back days aren't guaranteed.
"He's been great at dealing with this," Girardi said. "He's had some aches in the games he caught, but I think we're pretty much on target."
Memories of '01 in Phoenix still sting Yanks
PHOENIX -- The Yankees have passed through the clubhouse doors at Chase Field in the last nine years, visiting for a three-game Interleague series in June 2004. Still, in some corner of their minds, it can't help but be November 2001.
There is that small patch of grass in shallow center field -- occupied by a net during batting practice on Monday -- where Luis Gonzalez's ninth-inning, Game 7 flare off Mariano Rivera came to rest, effectively ending the Yankees' dynasty of four titles in five years.
No Arizona players remain from that series, though the Yankees' "Core Four" of Derek Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were all present and accounted for on the moment when Gonzalez's tapper floated over Jeter's head to win the emotionally charged Fall Classic.
"Really, the memories that we have here are that we lost," Jeter said. "It was an exciting series, but that was so long ago, nine years ago. I think that loss, we probably remembered it more until last year.
"Then it was more that we won one more recently than we lost. I don't know if you say it took the sting away, because you always remember it, but it feels better to say you won."
Jeter said that he didn't know if the memories were clearer when the Yankees checked their bags here in the summer of '04, because as he pointed out, the Yankees had more recently lost the 2003 World Series to the Marlins. But 2001 still stands out, for so many reasons.
"That Series was pretty exciting," Jeter said. "Even though we lost, you had to enjoy playing in it until the last inning of the last game. It's so long ago now. It went seven games and all the games pretty much were exciting with the exception of Game 6, when we got blown out. It was exciting to be a part of -- until the last inning."
On Monday, three members of the 2001 D-backs -- Gonzalez, Matt Williams and Mark Grace -- threw out ceremonial first pitches.
Chase Field also had sentimental attachment for Yankees manager Joe Girardi, as the site of his last Major League game on Sept. 28, 2003.
Girardi was playing for the Cardinals and, after striking out as a seventh-inning pinch-hitter, had retreated to the visiting clubhouse. But teammate Tino Martinez knew Girardi planned to retire after the 2003 season and knew Girardi was sitting on 1,099 hits.
Manager Tony La Russa kept Girardi in the game for one last at-bat, and he lined a ninth-inning single to right field off the D-backs' Edgar Gonzalez, then caught Jason Isringhausen for the last three outs of a 9-5 Cardinals win.
"It was very, very difficult for me to take my uniform off," Girardi said. "I was inside [the clubhouse] because I was emotional about it, I had to run back out because they put me in and I got a hit. I didn't really want to end on a tax form."
The Yankees are hopeful that Alex Rodriguez will be able to play all six games on this West Coast swing to Arizona and Los Angeles, and will remove him early if possible. Manager Joe Girardi said the purpose of DHing him on Saturday against the Mets was so he wouldn't have to play third base in six straight games leading into Thursday's off-day. ... Mariano Rivera has retired a career-best 21 straight batters, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last batter to reach against Rivera was the Orioles' Ty Wigginton on June 3. ... Francisco Cervelli has three triples this year, the most by a Yankees catcher since Girardi had four in 1998.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.