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04/17/08 11:56 PM ET

High expectations for Hughes

New York (9-8) at Baltimore (9-7), Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- Yankees fans have always had high expectations for their golden boy, Phil Hughes, the pitcher who was going to -- and might yet -- carry the Bombers on his back. Yet that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be fine with rough start after rough start, even if Hughes remains only 21 years old -- a baby even by baseball's youthful standards.

Still, Hughes hopes the Yankee faithful can support him for just a little while longer.

"I hope so, but it really doesn't affect me," he said. "I'm sure those fans have high expectations; I have high expectations. There are going to be some rough spots."

Two straight poor outings have soured this April for Hughes, saddling him with two losses not two weeks into the season. But that potential, that skill, that promise -- it's all still there. Hughes simply needs to translate it into success. Easier said than done.

"I still believe that Phil is going to run off a bunch of good starts for us in a row," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought his last start was better than the one before, but it's still not what we want. You don't press the panic button because of a couple of starts. He's been on a routine since he was in this organization, and you stick to it. Anyone can run into a couple of tough starts."

In the end, Girardi noted, those struggles might only help Hughes to improve. That quest begins Friday night against the Orioles, with Hughes still searching for his first win.

"You want to see how they go through it and how they come out of it," Girardi said. "I believe that Phil has extreme confidence in his abilities. I think it bothers him that he hasn't thrown well, but I don't think he's worried that he's going to throw well. We're not worried, either. We believe it's going to happen, and it's going to happen soon."

Though Friday's outing will mark his third straight start on the road, that much is nothing new for the Yankees. Two games in New York this week did little to disrupt a schedule that saw them previously play eight consecutive games on the road, then return home only to prepare for another 10 straight on a three-city trip that begins in Baltimore.

Though Girardi and his players have said that they'd rather do it sooner than later -- the schedule has to balance out eventually -- it's still caused a strain for the team, and altered Girardi's strategy of when and how to rest his players. The two home games against the Red Sox may not have done much, but they still gave the Yankees pause to breathe.

"It was nice to be in my own bed for a couple of days," Girardi said, "so I enjoyed it a lot."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Phil Hughes (0-2, 9.00 ERA)
Hughes couldn't stick around long enough to enjoy his first Fenway Park experience as an opposing pitcher, allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits in two-plus innings on Sunday. All three batters Hughes walked came around to score, and he kicked himself for some mechanical flaws that may have led to all the offense. He'll look to correct those flaws against the Orioles, a team he beat once last year with a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 innings.

BAL: RHP Daniel Cabrera (0-0, 5.94 ERA)
Cabrera flashed his best form on Saturday, when he pitched into the seventh inning and allowed just one run. The right-hander basically used just his fastball in that outing, and he has been experimenting with a slider as a replacement for his curveball. Cabrera led the league in walks the past two seasons, and he currently sits second with 12 free passes. He finished 1-3 with a 6.67 ERA last season against the Yankees.

Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis has two hits and three RBIs off Hughes in six career at-bats. ... No current Oriole has homered off Hughes. ... Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui have combined for a .368 lifetime average off Cabrera, with three doubles and three homers in 57 at-bats. ... Matsui was given a routine day off on Thursday.

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Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 0-1, 8.74) at Orioles (Brian Burres, 1-1, 5.40), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 2-1, 3.38) at Orioles (Steve Trachsel, 1-2, 5.65), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.