TAMPA, Fla. -- Michael Weiner is like a lot of people in the game when it comes to the Yankees cutting payroll.
"I'll believe it when I see it," the executive director of the Players Association said Wednesday.
But if Hal Steinbrenner is successful slicing payroll to $189 million by 2014 in order to avoid a huge luxury tax penalty, Weiner said that isn't a concern for the union.
"We knew when we negotiated the last Basic Agreement that there were certain incentives built in for the Yankees to drop their payroll," Weiner said. "One of them is for any club that has crossed the threshold a multiple number of times; it used to be that if they went down one year, they got a reduced tax rate but not very much of a reduced tax rate."
In the case of the Yankees, who have, in Weiner's words, "blown past" the luxury-tax threshold every year since 2003, the incentive not to is very real.
"If they go under for one year, they zero out and they go back to 17.5 percent," Weiner said, referring to the tax rate. "If the Yankees decide to drop their payroll to do that, I'm not concerned, because they're dropping their payroll to put themselves in position to greatly increase their payroll the next year. That incentive was understood."
Hughes still not throwing
Phil Hughes has been out since Feb. 18 with two bulging discs in his back and while saying he's "pain-free," the right-hander still doesn't have a date for when he will throw again. Joe Girardi said Hughes is probably about two weeks from making his first start and that "it's possible" he wouldn't be ready by the start of the season. But Girardi quickly stated he thought the righthander would be able to make four starts before the end of spring, the target number that would get him ready.
"Every day is worrisome that I'm not throwing, but I don't want to push this so it's a recurring issue," Hughes said. "I need as many games as I would have gotten. I'm a guy who needs to work."
Kevin Youkilis missed a second straight game with a sore left oblique and for a second straight day the third baseman said he could play. But he gets the Yankees' caution.
"I like being out there playing, so for me the limitations of holding me back always stinks, but I understand what they're doing," he said. "It makes sense."
Girardi said Youkilis would take BP Thursday and would play Friday or Saturday.
The Yankees lost their fourth straight spring game Wednesday, committing five errors in a 10-7 loss to the Orioles . . . .Brett Gardner hit a three-run triple and is 5-for-8 this spring . . . CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera are scheduled to throw simulated games this morning . . . Hiroki Kuroda will make his first spring start Friday and Ivan Nova will make his Saturday.