Phil Hughes literally was put on ice by the Yankees Wednesday. Scratched from his starting turn against Tampa Bay in the first game of a day-night doubleheader because of back spasms, Hughes was sent for an MRI -- which revealed inflammation related to a 2004 herniated disc -- received an epidural injection, then given a cold pack and told to go home early and lie down.
General manager Brian Cashman said the injury "is not considered serious; it would normally resolve itself just with some more time, but because of the time of year, we wanted to be proactive."
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Cashman said he expected Hughes will "be fine and he'll still pitch for us . . . It's just an aggravation of an old injury."
Hughes, 25, missed 84 games earlier this season with shoulder inflammation and continues to struggle to regain his 2010 All-Star form. In 15 games, still carrying around a 6.00 ERA, he has compiled a 5-5 record, with no guarantee he will remain in the starting rotation during the playoffs.
In Hughes' absence Wednesday, Joe Girardi used Hector Noesi as a starter for the first time as a major leaguer and quickly turned to a parade of seven relievers during the 4-2 Yankees victory that clinched a 16th postseason appearance in 17 years for the team.
"Obviously we're in," Cashman said. "We'd like to be all in, which is win the division, best record, but we won't do it at the expense of our players. So we'll take this day-by-day and try to keep the pedal to the metal, but at the same time, keep our eyes on the assets we have and make sure they're ready to play at full capabilities when it counts in October."
Hughes was "getting better," Cashman said, "but my attitude was, 'Let's not take any chances here. Let's be smart.'
"The clock is ticking. We are going to have lots of conversations on a daily basis with the players, individually, the medical staff, the coaches, and hopefully when the dust settles, we'll have home-field advantage, a division title and 25 men we feel very good about, in terms of health, ready to go when we need them.
"All that work and effort, hope and prayers, candle lighting and all that stuff, is all for the same purpose, to be the last team standing."