Hughes throws off mound without pain

Phil Hughes, on the disabled list since April

Phil Hughes, on the disabled list since April 15, threw off a mound Friday. (Feb. 16, 2011) (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

SEATTLE -- Friday was a day of progress for Phil Hughes. But how significant a step it was in his return to the rotation is uncertain.

The pitcher, on the disabled list since April 15 with right shoulder inflammation, threw 20 fastballs off a mound Friday night, the first time he's pitched from a mound since late April.

It was the next step -- and one he cleared without pain -- in the arm-strengthening program being overseen by Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and trainer Gene Monahan.

"It's a step in the right direction,'' Hughes said Saturday night. "Hopefully I can keep having these days where I don't have any issues and keep going forward and hopefully start a rehab assignment.''

On May 2, general manager Brian Cashman set the timetable for Hughes' return at six to eight weeks, so it still is early in the process. Still, given that Hughes cut short his last bullpen session April 25 because of what he described as "deadness'' in his arm, Friday wasn't insignificant. "It's encouraging,'' Girardi said.

Hughes played catch yesterday and could throw off a mound again Sunday or Monday. He said he wouldn't compare where he's at now to spring training.

"I assume this process would be sped up a little bit,'' Hughes said. "I'm not coming off not throwing for 2½ months [like the start of spring training]. At least I hope so, because I don't want to sit for another 1½ months.''

Hughes has been on the bench during his program and has been traveling. But it's been difficult. "It's tough being around the team watching games every night and feeling like I'm not doing anything,'' he said. "But it's part of it, I guess.''

 

Let's chat

Girardi planned to sit down briefly with Eduardo Nuñez, who, representing the tying run, was picked off at second for the final out of the eighth inning Friday night. The 23-year-old infielder, after pinch running for Jorge Posada, had stolen second.

"You just can't get picked off in that situation,'' Girardi said of his message to Nuñez.

That said, Nuñez's lead wasn't all that extended. On his dive back, had his arm not gotten stuck in the dirt, he would have been safe (replays showed he might have been safe anyway). All of which Girardi acknowledged.

"I still think it's probably too close of a play in that situation,'' Girardi said. "You have to make sure you're going to be safe.''

With the Yankees facing a day game Sunday after a night game, Girardi didn't rule out Nuñez playing in the field.

 

Extra bases

The Yankees announced that their April 6 postponement against the Twins will be made up Monday, Sept. 19, at 1:05 p.m. at the Stadium . . . C Francisco Cervelli and RHP Luis Ayala attended Saturday afternoon's soccer match between Mexico and Ecuador, which was played across the street at Qwest Field.

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