Dip in velocity makes Hughes vulnerable
Yanks insist righty is healthy; arm strength must come 'naturally'
NEW YORK -- A difference of a few miles per hour on a fastball may not seem to be a huge problem, but for a Major League starter, it can be the difference between a win and a loss. And it can also be the source of some early-season hand-wringing.
Yankees starter Phil Hughes continued to display diminished velocity in a 10-7 loss to the Tigers on Sunday. He surrendered five runs in four innings, allowing two home runs -- both to Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera -- walking two and striking out only one. Even though Hughes has made just one regular-season start, the Yankees have taken notice of the right-hander's velocity after a similar trend in Spring Training.
"There's going to be concern until you see it," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "That's just natural. I think he probably feels the same way. When you get going and you start to see the velocity, then you can relax a little bit. But until then, we'll try to figure out if there is any routine that will work for him. We've been trying to figure it out through the spring, so we'll continue."
"I feel fine," said Hughes, who the Yankees say is not injured. "So it's just arm strength, or whatever it is. It's not ideally where I want it to be. The first inning, I was like 90 [mph], which is not where I need to be. I need to be at 92 or 93. It's a little disconcerting right now, but we'll take these next few starts and evaluate it from there."
Asked if he can pitch well with his velocity where it is now, Hughes said that doing so would remove his margin for error.
"Anybody can, I think," Hughes said. "But I made too many mistakes over the plate. Jaime Moyer has been doing it for years. I attack guys, and I'm aggressive, so if my velocity is a bit down, I can't get away with as many mistakes."
Hughes, who averaged 92.5 mph with his fastball in 2010, according to Fangraphs.com, had trouble reaching 90 on Sunday. Despite getting two strikes on 12 hitters, Hughes recorded only one strikeout.
"I'm more concerned about guys locating the baseball -- that's the key," manager Joe Girardi said. "And he just didn't do it today."
Hughes and the Yankees can do little more than cross their fingers and hope the right-hander's velocity returns. The 24-year-old has gone through periods like this before, and the team has already tried varying his routine between starts.
"We may try to do a little bit more long toss and try to generate a little bit more," Rothschild said of Hughes' arm strength. "There's no easy way to get there. It just has to happen naturally."
"Hopefully, it comes around," Hughes said. "It did last year, so hopefully, it just comes around a little bit later."
-- Thomas Boorstein
Girardi plans rest for stars whenever possible
NEW YORK -- With the Yankees holding a sizable lead heading to the late innings of Saturday's 10-6 win over the Tigers, manager Joe Girardi went to his bench and told Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to take an early breather.
It was only the second game of the season, but Girardi promises he won't miss many opportunities to give his veteran stars a few innings off if similar situations present themselves.
"Any time I can give our veteran guys a few innings off, I'm going to do it," Girardi said. "You feel pretty safe with a 10-3 lead. ... If you can give them a couple of innings, you give them a couple of innings."
Eduardo Nunez pinch-hit for Jeter in the seventh inning, with New York leading by seven runs. Eric Chavez jumped in at third base for the final two innings.
"With Nunez and Chavez, you can [rest] both of them at the same time," Girardi said. "I'm going to do that from time to time."
For Chavez, who made the team as a non-roster invitee this spring, the contest marked his Yankees debut after 1,230 Major League games in an Oakland Athletics uniform.
Once one of the game's brightest stars at third base, Chavez is looking to re-establish himself after being limited to just 33 games with the Athletics last season, another injury-marred campaign for the 33-year-old.
"It's perfect for me, to be honest with you," Chavez said. "If I can't stay healthy in the role that I'm going to be doing, it's going to be hard for me to do it anywhere else. Obviously, it's going to be limited, and whatever they ask me to do, I'll be ready to do it. I'm really just going to enjoy being in a Yankee uniform."
Yanks strive to be aggressive on bases
NEW YORK -- Don't go calling them the Bronx Burners just yet, but the Yankees are planning to run a little more aggressively in 2011.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Sunday that it is no coincidence his team looked a little more active on the basepaths in the first two games of the season.
"That was something that we talked about during Spring Training," Girardi said. "One of the things we wanted to focus on was baserunning and being more aggressive, better secondary [leads], first to third, those types of things -- putting pressure on the opposing club."
Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner each stole a base off the battery of Brad Penny and Alex Avila in Saturday's 10-6 win over the Tigers, and Russell Martin stole third in Thursday's 6-3 victory. Gardner led the team in steals last season with 47.
"Just going by the first two games, it looks like they're going to run," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Gardner stole a lot of bases last year, so you know he's going to run. It looks like Jeter's legs are fresh. I think they'll pick their spots with a few guys on their team.
"They don't really have any cloggers, you know? Not all of them are speedsters, but they all run pretty good. A-Rod knows how to steal a base if you pick the right spot; [Robinson] Cano, [too]. That's a very versatile team."
Girardi said that Gardner and Granderson, who stole 12 bases last year but had as many as 26 in a season during his career, spoke often about stealing bases over the course of the spring.
"I think that's a healthy competition," Girardi said. "We had all of our guys working on it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.