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Hughes, ailing Joba don't do much to help themselves

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain (62) struggles

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain (62) struggles during the Yankees' spring training baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Mar. 5, 2010) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. - It was a pair of mostly forgettable outings.

Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain both pitched Friday, and neither was especially sharp in a 12-7 loss to the Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

No, that doesn't mean any of the other contenders - Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves - has a better chance to become the Yankees' fifth starter than he did a week ago.

But no dramatic statements were made by Hughes or Chamberlain in their 2010 exhibition debuts, with the latter battling the effects of a recent bout of stomach flu.

Hughes, who threw 33 pitches (18 strikes), was hit hard early but surrendered only one run, on a home run, in two innings. "I don't think I threw a fastball that was well located the whole day,'' he said.

Chamberlain, who guessed he was pitching at maybe "60 percent'' after losing "almost eight pounds'' since Tuesday, alternated between being erratic and getting thumped.

He did not make it through his two innings, getting pulled after 33 pitches, 14 of them strikes, with one out in the fourth. He was charged with five runs, allowing three hits and three walks in 11/3 innings.

"I'm not going to make too much of it,'' Joe Girardi said. "You wonder how much he had his legs under him after being fairly sick for a couple days. Felt he was healthy enough to pitch, and you want him to pitch because you want him to develop that arm strength, but you really don't know exactly how physically he felt.''

Not particularly well, Chamberlain said.

Did he feel drained? "Without question,'' he said. "Being in that rhythm of everyday running and getting your lift in . . . I didn't do anything for three days. I was in bed for two of them. You go out there and your legs are gone and you have to make some pitches. I made a few pitches, I didn't make some pitches. So it's something to build off of.''

For Chamberlain, whose food intake the last three days consisted of a small sub Thursday and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich Friday, missing the game wasn't an option.

"You'd probably have to chop my legs off, to be perfectly honest with you,'' he said.

Neither pitcher put much stock in the game results. Not yet, anyway.

"You're not going to win the battle with one game,'' Chamberlain said. "They're going to look at [the game], but it's about how you get your work in. There's things you're always going to have to work on.''

Hughes is trying to refine his changeup, which he said he threw "eight or nine times.''

"Dave [Eiland, the pitching coach] told me afterward it was the best he's seen me throw a changeup,'' Hughes said.

Chamberlain didn't pay a lot of attention to Hughes, and the reverse was true when Chamberlain came in.

"I'm just concerned about myself,'' Hughes said. "It sounds like I'm not telling the truth, but I'm just worried about what I'm doing out there. I feel like if I get myself right, that's all I can ask for going into the season. If that's not good enough, it's not good enough. I know what I need to do to be successful, and that's all I'm going to strive toward.''


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