ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Phil Hughes' final tuneup before his regular-season debut was a good one. Or at least as good an indication as a simulated game can give.
Hughes, scheduled to start Thursday against the Angels, pitched Saturday morning at the Yankees' minor-league complex against minor-leaguers, similar to the outing he threw last Monday.
Joe Girardi said Hughes threw 84 pitches and struck out six in six innings. He threw 100 pitches Monday and, like the rest of the rotation in spring training, was dialed back in his final start. "He threw the ball well,'' Girardi said.
Hughes will be on an innings limit this season, thought to be about 170, which shouldn't cause the problem Joba Chamberlain's did last year.
Brett Gardner was replaced by Marcus Thames on Friday because the Rays started lefthander David Price. But Thames' defense isn't as strong as Gardner's, and he isn't nearly as fast. That was apparent in the fourth inning Friday when Thames dived for and failed to backhand Jason Bartlett's sinking liner, which became a two-out, two-run double.
Would Gardner have gotten to the ball? "He probably does,'' Girardi said. "Marcus did everything he could to get to it, but he probably does.'' He wasn't being critical. "I didn't have a problem with the dive,'' he said. "You watch it. It looked like he missed it by a couple inches.''
Batting a thousand
Alex Rodriguez's second-inning single was his 1,000th hit as a Yankee. He's the 39th Yankee to reach that plateau and first since Jorge Posada on Aug. 20, 2005. While on deck in the first, A-Rod chatted with ESPN's Dick Vitale, a longtime Rays season ticket-holder who has first-row seats near the visitor's dugout.