New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes (65) throws in...

New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes (65) throws in the first inning of the Yankees baseball spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Mar. 5, 2010) Credit: AP

The simulated-game portion of Phil Hughes' season is over.

Hughes, the Yankees' fifth starter, makes his first start of the season Thursday night against the Angels and the 23-year-old said there will be some nerves.

"First start of the year, you're always a little anxious," Hughes said before yesterday's game.

Though anxious, Hughes believes he's better than the last time he started games, mostly because of a changeup he spent the spring trying to master.

Hughes' last start was May 31 of last season in Cleveland when he received a no-decision after allowing four runs in five innings in a 5-4 loss. Hughes was 3-2 with a 5.45 ERA when he was put in the bullpen in early June.

"I feel like from the last time I started until now, my changeup's made all the difference in the world," Hughes said.

"Obviously I haven't had a regular-season game to judge that off of yet but just based on spring training and a couple extended spring starts, it feels just miles and miles apart from when I was starting last."

Because of early days off in the schedule, Hughes has made two starts in simulated games against Yankees' minor leaguers in Tampa since the season started. He doesn't think he is behind.

"I thought I might [be less sharp] but everything kind of stayed on track and I was able to carry that over to my minor-league starts so I was happy with that," Hughes said.

Another 0-for-Matsui

Hideki Matsui went 0-for-4 with a walk, making him 0-for-9 the first two games of the series. Matsui acknowledged part of his struggles might be because he hasn't seen Yankees pitchers from a hitter's standpoint before. "That may be one of the reasons, but once you're in the game, you've got to be able to make adjustments," Matsui said.

Fuentes goes on DL

The Angels placed closer Brian Fuentes on the 15-day disabled list with a strained back. With Anthony Rieber

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