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Hughes nearly set to begin rehab program

New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes (65)

New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes (65) reacts to the game action in the top of the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (April 14, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

Phil Hughes' journey back to the Yankees' rotation is tentatively scheduled to begin Thursday. Pending one more check and approval by the team doctor, the 24-year-old righthander will begin a throwing program to strengthen his arm. It is expected to take 6-8 weeks to complete.

A frustrated yet optimistic Hughes spoke to the media before last night's game against the Royals for the first time since returning from St. Louis, where he was tested last week for thoracic outlet syndrome.

"It's tough," Hughes said. "I didn't want to have to go through this, but something wasn't right, so I had to figure out what it was and I'm just happy to be plugging forward and not going through any more tests right now."

The plan for Thursday is to play catch -- Hughes is not ready for long toss -- and progress depending on how he feels each day.

"If I feel good the first day, then we can kind of move on from there and go," Hughes said, "but I don't know what the procedure is for the throwing program after that."

Hughes hasn't pitched since April 14 after experiencing a lack of velocity in his first three starts, when he was 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA.

A cortisone shot April 28 relieved much of the discomfort in Hughes' shoulder, and the expected return in 6-8 weeks is much better than working with no timetable.

"I hoped to have not been out that long,'' Hughes said, "but when you consider that I haven't thrown in a while and having to come back and start throwing, and then eventually get on the mound and rehab and all that, hopefully the time flies by and I'll be up to 100 percent."

Hughes went to St. Louis hoping not to hear that his season was over because of the vascular condition.

"I was hopeful that it'd be good news," he said. "I went because they had seen a couple things that may have led them to believe something else was going on, but I was confident that everything was fine, so that was certainly encouraging."

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