Feliciano likely to have season-ending surgery
Durable reliever sidelined by capsule tear in left shoulder
NEW YORK -- Pedro Feliciano's calling card has been his durability, and the veteran left-hander never shies away from taking the ball, leading the Major Leagues in appearances in each of the last three seasons.
It appears that title will go to someone else in 2011. Feliciano said on Thursday that he is leaning toward having surgery to repair a capsule tear in his pitching shoulder, a serious procedure which would end his season before it even started.
"I want to be here," Feliciano said. "I'm a guy who wants to pitch every day, like I've been doing for the last three or four years. To be shut down for maybe a year, I don't know how I'm going to handle it. That's going to be hard."
Feliciano, 34, signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Yankees over the winter, switching bullpen boroughs after excelling as the Mets' left-handed specialist. He made 344 relief appearances since the start of 2007, marking an all-time record for appearances over a four-year stretch.
He has been unable to get back on a mound since March, he's currently listed on the 15-day disabled list, and a dye-contrast MRI taken on Wednesday showed the capsule damage.
Feliciano plans to consult with Dr. James Andrews on Monday and should have a final decision on Tuesday, but general manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees are expecting Andrews to concur with the initial diagnosis recommending surgery.
"Most likely, that opinion will hold up, unfortunately," Cashman said. "It's not like this is a close call. It seems to be a very obvious diagnosis. In all likelihood, we're looking at a significant surgery."
Feliciano expressed confidence that he would be able to pitch at the beginning of 2012 if he has the surgery as soon as possible, but Cashman compared Feliciano's injury to the malady that has derailed the career of Chien-Ming Wang, a two-time 19-game winner for the Yankees.
"Capsule tears are very serious," Cashman said. "Can he come back and be Pedro Feliciano? I couldn't tell you yet. We'll wait to see what Andrews is going to say, but it's a Chien-Ming Wang issue, and he's still trying to come back with Washington. The odds are a lot more difficult."
Feliciano had a shoulder issue in 1999, which cost him the entire season but had not bothered the hurler since. He believes the current injury could stem from lifting weights during Spring Training with the Yankees, and did not blame the Mets for allowing him to pitch so often.
"Every year when I finished my last game, I was healthy," Feliciano said. "I never can say in '09 or '10 I was tired or in pain when I was pitching. I was fine and I wanted to be in there every day."
Yankees optimistic, but Hughes still scuffling
NEW YORK -- The Yankees wanted to spin Phil Hughes' latest effort as an improvement over the previous two starts, but the frustrated right-hander just sees more of the same old story.
Hughes was belted for five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings by the Orioles on Thursday, leaving the Yankees trailing big when manager Joe Girardi came to pluck the ball from his hand after 70 underwhelming pitches.
"I'm trying to figure some things out," Hughes said. "I don't have the magic potion or the answer. It's something that hopefully will work itself out. I'm doing everything I can."
Hughes has surrendered at least five runs in each of his three starts this season, lacking the velocity that helped him win a career-high 18 games last season. The Yankees saw Hughes creep as high as 92 mph on Thursday, but he still averaged only 89 mph with his fastball.
"Early on, it looked like he was back, and then he slowly lost his velocity," catcher Russell Martin said. "I thought he pitched better. He made more pitches today and had better command of his stuff. It was definitely a step forward."
Hughes retired seven of the first eight Orioles he faced on Thursday, but then just six of the next 12. The Yankees have two off-days coming up next week, so they could get creative in bouncing Hughes around, but removing him from the rotation does not seem to be an option at this point.
"His history has been that the velocity comes over time, so we're waiting on it," general manager Brian Cashman said. "How do you get velocity out of guys? You throw them."
Girardi agreed with that sentiment after the game, saying that the only place Hughes is going to figure out his troubles is on a mound.
"He's got to pitch to get things right," Girardi said. "He can't just go on a sabbatical or something and not do anything. We have off-days coming up, we have a lot of things we need to discuss, but we need to get this kid right."
In the meantime, Hughes said he will head back to the drawing board as he prepares for his next start, whenever it may be. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild already spotted a discrepancy in Hughes' lower half from last season, which could generate more power.
There may be more suggestions on the way, but even all of that busy work won't be able to keep Hughes' mind completely occupied.
"It seems like there's 18 days in between my starts," Hughes said. "It's not a good feeling to have to keep answering all these questions about how poorly I keep pitching every time out. It's not a fun thing to deal with."
Yankees don't figure to add pitcher soon
NEW YORK -- The Yankees would love to add a second left-hander to their bullpen, filling the role that Pedro Feliciano was envisioned for, but that seems to be easier said than done at this time.
General manager Brian Cashman said that the time for picking up quality left-handed relievers -- if there ever is an optimal moment -- does not typically present itself in April, even though the Yankees are interested.
"It's so hard to find," Cashman said. "The answer to that question would be always yes, maybe even more so now, but I'm not going to find one anytime soon. We've looked at the starting rotation and stuff like that. You can't get anything done typically until after the [June] Draft, anything of quality."
As he did during the winter months, when the starting pitching landscape took on a barren appearance, Cashman said that any hurlers available right now are being shopped for a reason.
"You might run into somebody's headache," Cashman said. "[That] might become your fortune because you can turn them around with a change of scenery or something like that -- somebody's bad contract.
"Those things might be available right now, but that's the stuff you don't want to run to either. I'll look, but I'm not going to find it too easily. I wouldn't hold your breath, because I'm not."
Internally, the Yankees have few left-handed options they would promote as a reliever. They could consider Andy Sisco, a 28-year-old currently pitching at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but Cashman said Sisco's velocity was down this spring and is now hovering around 91 mph -- still a few clicks shy of where it was when the Yankees signed him out of the Mexican League.
"I'm not saying he can't become a choice, but his lines are better than how he's throwing," Cashman said of Sisco, who has walked two and struck out six in four scoreless innings at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said until there is an upgrade available, the staff can get by with what they have.
"We're going to miss Feliciano," Girardi said. "There's no doubt about it. We're going to miss him. But we have guys that can step up, that have the ability to step up, and it's our job to get it done."
Cashman stands by comments about Feliciano
NEW YORK -- Brian Cashman stands by his earlier comments that Pedro Feliciano's previous workload was "abusive," but the Yankees general manager also said that he was not intentionally "throwing hand grenades" at the Mets.
Fiddling with a microphone in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium before Thursday's game, Cashman shrugged and acknowledged the Yankees knew it was a risk to sign the 34-year-old left-hander to a two-year, $8 million contract, but rolled the dice on the deal anyway.
"Yeah, he was definitely abused over there. We knew that," Cashman said. "Certainly, I went ahead in signing him anyway. I'm not sitting here blaming them for it, but I did answer the question honestly."
Feliciano could miss the entire 2011 season with a tear in his left shoulder capsule. He made 266 total appearances over the past three seasons with the Mets, but Cashman said that the capsule tear was not a pre-existing condition.
Whatever injuries Feliciano has now, he suffered during Spring Training with the Yankees, Cashman said.
"It plays as though I'm attacking the Mets. I'm not attacking the Mets," Cashman said. "He was used extensively over there. I wasn't blaming the Mets on what he was dealing with now."
Despite the troubling news, Cashman was in a playful mood during a 16-minute session with reporters, at one point sipping from a bottle of water meant for manager Joe Girardi and resealing it at the speakers' table.
"It's the most fun I'll have all day," Cashman said.
But Cashman's mood darkened when a question touched on a suggestion that he had been hypocritical in speaking out about Feliciano, considering the way the Yankees have used pitchers in the past.
"If you want to get Joe Torre on the phone, you'll know I'm not a hypocrite," Cashman said. "I dealt with our pitching coach, I dealt with our manager and we have new people here that utilize people a certain way now.
"These guys aren't finite assets out there. There's a very limited group of people capable on a consistent basis of performing at a high level of success. You can't put your assets in jeopardy. You can't overuse them, or you lose them."
Cashman named Scott Proctor and Ron Villone as examples of players whom he tried to help, telling them to be more honest with manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Ron Guidry on days when they should not be available.
"I said, 'You better stop telling the manager [yes],'" Cashman said. "The way he manages -- and I'm not criticizing Joe -- he wants an honest answer. Just tell him no. I could not convince the manager and the pitching coach this is the wrong approach."
Cashman said he also met with Torre and Guidry to change the way the bullpen workload was handled, with little success. Cashman said that the pitchers continued to act in a "John Wayne" fashion, and changes have been made with the current coaching staff to avoid the mistakes made with players like Proctor and Villone.
"I met with those individual players and said, 'You are hurting your career,'" Cashman said. "I covered all my bases. There's no hypocrisy here."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.