Hughes fans seven in encouraging rehab start
Yanks righty shows improved velocity in 4 1/3-inning stint
NEW YORK -- Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes threw 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball in his first rehab start Sunday for Class A Staten Island at Brooklyn.
Hughes struck out seven, allowing three hits and one walk while throwing 61 pitches.
It was the first time Hughes pitched in a game since going on the disabled list April 15 with what was later diagnosed as shoulder inflammation. Prior to Sunday, Hughes had pitched in an intrasquad game in Tampa, Fla.
"I felt good," Hughes said. "The main thing that matters is that my arm feels good."
Perhaps of chief concern, Hughes' velocity was about where it had been last season. While he had trouble reaching 90 mph during his three starts before landing on the DL this year, Hughes' fastball consistently clocked in at 92-93 mph, with his velocity topping out at 95 and going as low as 89.
Though he did not know what his velocity was until he was told after the game, Hughes said he could tell he was throwing the ball faster than he had been earlier in the year and that he was happy to be getting swinging strikes from his fastball, something he hadn't been able to do in his three earlier starts.
"I knew it was good," Hughes said. "My last outing down in Tampa, I was 91-93, so I knew with maybe a little more adrenaline I knew I would be at least that, if not maybe a tick more."
Hughes said he was also happy with the control he exhibited. He threw first-pitch balls to just four of the 17 batters he faced and threw 41 of his 61 pitches for strikes.
He is tentatively scheduled to start for Double-A Trenton in five days. He said he doesn't know how many starts he will need to get back to pitching for the Yankees but said he feels further along than he was at the beginning of Spring Training.
With fellow starter Bartolo Colon also on the DL with a strained hamstring, Hughes is eager to rejoin his teammates in the Bronx.
"That's difficult," Hughes said. "Having to go to Tampa when we were in Anaheim. It's OK when you're on the team, you can watch the games and stuff. When you're at home just watching on TV and every day goes by that you're not there and losing out, it's difficult. That's just part of it, and I've got to make sure I do everything I can to make sure I'm healthy and back at 100 percent."
Hughes threw 25 of his 61 pitches in the first inning alone and had to work himself out of a one-out jam.
Danny Muno led off for Brooklyn with an infield single to shortstop before Ismael Tijerina smacked a single to right field.
From there, Hughes buckled down by striking out Javier Rodriguez swinging and Richard Lucas looking. After a walk to Luke Stewart, Hughes peppered Juan Torres with fastballs before getting him to flail at curveball away to strike out the side.
"I kind of struggled the first inning, but once I got through that, everything felt good," Hughes said.
Indeed, Hughes only needed eight pitches in each of the second and third innings, retiring 11 consecutive batters after walking Stewart.
Hughes allowed his only run in the fifth inning, when Nelfi Zapata blasted a 1-1 changeup over the left-field wall. Though Hughes was pulled immediately after, he said it was because he was on a pitch count and not because he was tiring.
"I was just trying to get it down and away, and it just leaked over the plate," Hughes said. "He took two really good swings in both at-bats I saw him, so he seems like a good hitter. But fatigue-wise, I was fine."
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.