Heading into a contract year and a bit of uncertainty at the number five slot in the Yankees rotation, which is currently in a competition between young right-handers Ivan Nova and David Phelps, the importance of the 2013 season for Phil Hughes cannot be understated. While the first three slots in the rotation are fortified by ace C.C. Sabathia and two proven veterans in Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, the stability of Hughes would take pressure off of the fifth spot in the rotation.
However, with the 26-year-old right-hander now dealing with a bulging disc in his back, the previously speculated two-week absence might be amplified, and as per Chad Jennings of The Journal News, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has not ruled out the possibility that Hughes misses his first turn in the rotation when the season starts in April,
“It’s possible,” Girardi said. “I think it’s too early to tell that, though.”
Moreover, as Hughes does continue to do light cardiovascular activity, there is no timetable on when Hughes will be back on the mound, let alone toss a baseball, and that alone has Hughes frustrated as well,
“Every day is worrisome when I’m not throwing,” Hughes said. “It’s a double-edged sword. I don’t want to push this thing and have it become a recurring issue. I want to make sure it’s over and done with, but at the same time, every day is a day lost.”
For Hughes, this is the second time his back has flared up on the mound in a matter of months, the previous time being in October, which led to an early exit in Game Three of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Hughes did show flashes of brilliance in 2012, including impressive months in June and July, and additionally, with an eight-strikeout performance over six innings against the Baltimore Orioles in Game Four of the American League Division Series.
However, as aforementioned, entering the most important year of his young career, with his first run at free agency looming, Hughes hopes to not let this setback hinder him for too long. Time is of the essence if he wants to make his first turn in the rotation when the season starts.
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