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03/21/09 5:09 PM ET

Hughes among seven Yankees cuts

Johnson, Mitre re-assigned to Minors camp; Cervelli to Double-A

TAMPA, Fla. -- With spring innings now at a premium, Saturday turned into moving day for the Yankees, as six right-handed pitchers were dispatched across the street to Minor League camp in the morning.

Anthony Claggett, Phil Hughes and Steven Jackson were optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, while Humberto Sanchez was optioned to Double-A Trenton. Sergio Mitre and Jason Johnson were also reassigned to the club's Himes Avenue complex.

After the Yankees' 4-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Tigers, New York announced that catcher Francisco Cervelli had also been optioned to Double-A, lowering the number of players remaining in camp to 42.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman lauded Hughes' work this spring, but said the team would be doing a disservice to keep him in camp. The 22-year-old righty will continue preparing as a starting pitcher and could be among the first considered if there is an opportunity in New York.

"I told him that he had a great camp and to keep working," Cashman said. "We told him about all the things that we saw and what he needs to continue to work on. He's in a great frame of mind. He knows he did great here, but he also knows that it's not in his best interest to now be held back."

Hughes pitched Friday against the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., allowing three hits and one earned run in 4 1/3 innings. In three starts against big league teams this spring, Hughes allowed five hits and three earned runs in 12 1/3 innings (2.19 ERA).

"He had a very good spring for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought he attacked the zone great for us. The thing is, we ran out of innings for him here and we want him stretched out. We can't do that here and we were very happy with the progress that he made from the fall into the spring. He's had some injuries and he hasn't pitched as much as he should have, but he was pretty good this spring."

Early in camp, the Yankees said that they had no intention of considering young pitchers such as Hughes or Ian Kennedy for long relief roles. In Hughes' case, the Bombers want to build his innings long-term after injuries limited him to only 69 2/3 frames last season and 108 1/3 in 2007.

Girardi said that Hughes will be on the short list of pitchers who could be summoned from the Minors in the event something happens to a member of New York's starting rotation.

"He'll get a lot of consideration because of what he did and the experience that he has," Girardi said. "Obviously, we're going to call up the guy that's pitching the best. Sometimes it comes down to where you're in the rotation, as well."

Johnson, 35, was set back early in camp after undergoing treatment for choroidal melanoma, permitted to throw only indoors for fear of infection in his right eye.

Returning to the field with a late start in his competition for the Yankees' long-relief mix, Johnson made two appearances for New York and had a 3.38 ERA in 2 2/3 innings.

"He went through a lot this spring," Girardi said. "He should be proud of what he went through this spring. We need him stretched out, as well, because he could be a guy that we use during the season. If you're only up to 30 pitches, then it's not the kind of role we see for him."

Johnson's reassignment thins the ranks of those competing to be the Yankees' long reliever and potential spot-starter to open the season. Alfredo Aceves, Dan Giese, Kei Igawa and Brett Tomko are among those who remain under consideration.

Sanchez was sidelined early in camp by right forearm tightness and has not pitched in spring action, though he has worked in the bullpen and is primed to begin game action.

Claggett, 24, was 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in six spring appearances (eight innings), while the 27-year-old Jackson had no record and a 2.58 ERA in eight games, spanning seven innings.

Mitre, 28, is recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and will begin the season serving a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy.

Cervelli, 23, batted .250 (3-for-12) in eight Grapefruit League games for New York and also left the Yankees this spring to play for Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

In other injury updates, Cashman said there was little new to report on the recovery of third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who remains in Vail, Colo., rehabilitating from his March 9 right hip surgery at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic.

"We're in touch with them," Cashman said. "I talked to Alex [on Friday]. It's all going good."

Bombers bits: Lefty CC Sabathia will join the Yankees' Double-A and Triple-A players on Sunday vs. Pirates Minor Leaguers in Tampa, Fla., with Aceves starting against the Rays at Port Charlotte, Fla., instead. ... Jorge Posada will catch Sabathia in the Minor League game. ... Outfielder Nick Swisher (bruised left calf) will return to action Sunday against Tampa Bay.

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