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04/23/07 8:00 PM ET

Yankees to start Hughes Thursday

Top prospect given chance in Majors with rotation decimated

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After a dominant 2006 season in the Minor Leagues, top Yankees prospect Phil Hughes was expecting his call to join the Yankees. Eventually.

The 20-year-old was probably fairly surprised to have his phone ring on Monday with a message that he'd be starting in pinstripes on Thursday night at 7:05 ET against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"It's a necessity for us, but they don't think it's the wrong time for him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of the decision to promote Hughes, who has posted a 2-1 record and a 3.94 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year. "We certainly had visions of him coming up later on, but we also preface that with, 'If everybody stays healthy,' and that hasn't been the case."

The Yankees' rotation has taken some blows early on this season, with Mike Mussina on the disabled list with a sore hamstring, Carl Pavano watching from the dugout with tightness in his right forearm and Chien-Ming Wang out with a strained hamstring. Torre said he wasn't sure what would happen with Hughes, or how long the youngster would stay up, but he said the team would take it "a start at a time."

Hughes fanned 10 last Wednesday, but Torre was more impressed with how the right-hander was able to fight through rough patches.

"The only thing I told him in Spring Training was, 'Just keep doing what you're doing,'" Torre said. "'Experience is the only thing you need. Bad things are going to happen; the true test is getting through those things.'"

Taken in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Hughes was the only Minor League pitcher recommended to Torre by his advisory staff.

Across 26 starts at Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last season, Hughes went 12-6 with a 2.16 ERA, striking out 168 batters and walking 34 in 146 innings.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.