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Hughes will rely on himself, not Pettitte

Yankees starter Phil Hughes reacts during a rough

Yankees starter Phil Hughes reacts during a rough second inning against the Boston Red Sox. (Apr. 8, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

BOSTON -- Whenever Phil Hughes experienced a rough outing last season, Andy Pettitte was the first person he turned to in the clubhouse after the game.

Hughes expected Pettitte to be both honest and blunt with his postgame assessments, which Hughes said he welcomed because he felt it helped him learn from his mistakes.

So with Hughes struggling to survive this season without his regular low-90s fastball, has he been tempted to place a call to a certain retiree in Houston?

Speaking before the Yankees-Red Sox game Sunday night, Hughes said he last connected with Pettitte a few weeks ago and didn't know when they'll speak again. He does know this much: The next time he calls Pettitte, it won't be to discuss his struggles.

"That's not a resource anymore," Hughes said. "If I give him a call after every bad start I have, he's going to get a little sick of that, being back home. I know what I need to do. It's just a matter of finding it and also pitching my game."

Hughes hopes he took the first significant step toward fixing himself Sunday with a 30-minute bullpen session.

He began with an extended long-toss session, standing in centerfield and playing catch with a bullpen catcher who was by the rightfield foul line. That was designed to help stretch out his shoulder. Then Hughes entered the bullpen with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and tinkered with his delivery for the first time this season.

After giving up six runs in two innings Friday, Hughes watched video of his starts from last year and noticed he had been more aggressive with his lower body in his delivery. So Sunday, he focused on mimicking that same motion, hoping the minor adjustment will help him discover his missing velocity.

In two starts this season, Hughes has allowed 11 runs and 12 hits, walked four and struck out one in six innings. With a fastball averaging only 89.3 mph, Hughes all but abandoned the pitch -- his out pitch -- last game and struggled to find a way to get hitters out.

He admittedly doesn't know when his fastball will return. He felt stronger in the bullpen Sunday, but he was quick to add that he thought the same thing in the bullpen before his last start.

Though his fastball is missing, Hughes acknowledges he has to do a much better job of persevering without it. "Even if I don't have my best stuff, I can still get outs," he said. "I haven't been able to do it in my first couple of starts, and that's going to have to change.

"Even if I don't have my normal velocity the next time out, I need to be able to get the job done and keep us in the game. That's basically what it boils down to."


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