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'Dead arm' lands Hughes on DL

Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes walks back to

Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes walks back to the dugout after being taken out of the game in the top of the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (April 14, 2011) Credit: Photo by Christopher Pasatieri

Phil Hughes was put on the disabled list Friday, the result not of injury but of what he and the Yankees called a "dead arm." Said Hughes, "It's just a dead, fatigued feeling."

Hughes, 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA after three starts, didn't have his usual fastball in spring training, but all involved figured it would come back once the regular season started. It didn't.

"Something had to be done," said Hughes, who lasted only 41/3 innings and was charged with five runs in Thursday's start against Baltimore. "The arm strength's just not there. We have to get it right, and this will give me an opportunity to build up some arm strength."

Hughes will attempt to do that by staying with the Yankees and going through, among other things, an extensive long-toss program under pitching coach Larry Rothschild in an attempt to get his right arm to where the pitcher and the team believe it should be.

Sending Hughes to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was considered, but ultimately the Yankees decided that keeping him in New York was the better course of action. "I want to go out there and compete, but when I'm going out there with subpar stuff, it's hard to do that and it's frustrating," Hughes said. "It will be good to get this handled and taken care of, and hopefully, I'll be back and helping the team win like I know I'm capable of doing.

"It's just tough right now going out there without the ability and stuff I know I have. It's a matter of getting it right. This will give me the opportunity just to throw and get it right."

Hughes saw progress in Thursday's start. He hit 90 to 92 mph in the first two innings before his fastball reverted to 88 and 89 mph, where it was in his first two starts. "It's just not there," he said of his velocity.

Joe Girardi said he took some encouragement from Hughes reaching 92. "My level of concern, in a sense it kind of lessened [Thursday] night when I saw 92," Girardi said. "But then it fell off, which made me feel that it just seems like he's going through a dead arm [period], which is not something unusual for pitchers to go through. But you usually hope you go through it in spring training; you're able to get rid of it. He has not been able to get rid of it. And there is concern because we know the importance of Phil to our rotation. But I was a little encouraged last night when I saw more velocity."

Girardi said Bartolo Colon will take Hughes' rotation spot. Girardi said Colon, who threw 54 pitches in three scoreless innings Thursday, could go 80 to 85 pitches in his first start. His three relief outings (3.97 ERA, 13 strikeouts in 111/3 innings) came in starts by Hughes.

"I'm very confident," Hughes said. "It's not one of those things where I feel like it's going to take months. I feel like it's something that's going to change pretty quick. I just need to work hard at it and do my long toss and do my exercises, and hopefully it will be there."

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