Phil Hughes confident arm strength will return

PHIL HUGHES Yankees, starting pitcher Age: 28 | PHIL HUGHES
Yankees, starting pitcher
Age: 28 | 2013 salary: $7.15 million
Hughes posted an ERA above 5.00 for the second time in three seasons and was again hurt by a tendency to give up home runs. He's one of the youngest pitchers on the free agent market, however, which should make him somewhat attractive. | Photo Credit: AP

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TAMPA, Fla. -- There has been at least one noticeable change for Phil Hughes in the two weeks since he suffered two bulging discs in his upper back.

"I feel like I've lost maybe a tick of my arm strength," Hughes told reporters from two newspapers, including Newsday, early Monday morning. "But I'm hoping that comes back quick. It's only been two weeks, it wasn't like a full offseason or anything, so I hope that I get that back, we'll amp it up and go from there."

Hughes, by his own description, "amped" it up early Monday morning when he threw for a second straight day. On Sunday, the righthander, who was injured covering first base during pitchers' fielding practice Feb. 18, threw 25 pitches at 60 feet. On Monday, he threw 50 pitches at 60 feet to pitching coach Larry Rothschild after 16 warm-ups.

"I amped it up a little bit, which was the plan, double the throws and a little more intensity, and I didn't feel anything," Hughes said.

Of his arm strength, he said: "Toward the end, you can just feel it's not coming out as good as it was two weeks ago, which I anticipated that happening. I'm confident whatever I lost I'll have again."

Hughes said he expects to take Tuesday off from throwing, then play "long-toss of some sort" Wednesday. There still is no timetable for when he'll appear in a game, and he and the Yankees have said it's "possible" he won't be ready by the start of the regular season April 1.

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But Hughes, who said he's been pain-free "five or six days now," prefers this cautious approach to the alternative.

"It's better to take the time in spring," Hughes said. "If this would have popped up in the middle of the season, it may have been a situation where I just get a shot, [rest] for a few days and get back at it. Because we have a little bit of time, I think I'm better off going this way to get it right and make sure it's not a recurring issue."

Notes & quotes: Although the Yankees had the day off, pitchers Mark Montgomery, Manny Banuelos, Cesar Cabral and Michael Pineda threw flat-ground sessions early in the morning, watched by Rothschild . . . Ichiro Suzuki, who came away from a serious car accident Saturday uninjured, worked out. He ran in the outfield, played long-toss and stretched before signing autographs for many of the fans who came early to watch the Dominican Republic's WBC team work out.

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