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Notes: Hughes bound for Triple-A

Club's top pitching prospect struggles in third spring outing
03/11/2007 7:58 PM ET
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

Phil Hughes has walked six and sports an ERA of 7.71.(AP)
TAMPA, Fla. — Even if he had compiled great numbers this spring, Phil Hughes would have been a long shot to open the season in New York, with Yankees officials tabbing him for seasoning at Triple-A.

Three appearances into his second Major League Spring Training, the 20-year-old right-hander has not changed the organization's thinking.

Unable to throw his curveball and changeup for strikes on Sunday, Hughes surrendered three runs and four hits in a 1 1/3-inning performance against the Indians. Afterward, he lamented not making the Yankees' decisions more difficult.

"It's a little bit frustrating to not go out and pitch the way I know I can," Hughes said. "At the same time, I think [the Yankees] had their minds made up from the beginning, so it wasn't like I could really go out there and do anything special to change their minds.

"It's Spring Training. Stuff-wise, I felt much better than the first two times. It's just that the results weren't there."

With starting pitchers beginning to work deeper into games, the Yankees have a second round of reassignments to Minor League camp plotted for execution on Tuesday. Accordingly, Minor League intrasquad games begin on Wednesday.

It is not known if Hughes will be on that list, but it has already been made clear that — at some point — he will be taking his belongings across the street to the Minor League complex.

"I have no idea how much longer I'll stay," Hughes said. "It doesn't make too much of a difference. I'm still getting the same work. It's probably a little bit better to face big-league hitters rather than Triple-A guys."

In 4 2/3 innings this spring, Hughes' results have not matched up to his impressive Minor League career. His ERA is an unsightly 7.71, and after averaging just 2.09 walks per nine innings last season, he has already walked six in Grapefruit League play.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he was pleased to see Hughes continue grinding through his performance Sunday, and noted that Hughes never appears to lose his composure — a good sign.

"This is all about experience for him," Torre said. "He's got an opportunity to pitch here in Spring Training for us, and I think whatever the results, it's all good for him."

Hughes said that the experiences from this spring will remain with him after he leaves Legends Field, whenever that may be.

"It's a huge eye-opener," Hughes said. "I can remember a couple of occasions where if I throw that breaking ball for a strike, I'm probably in a lot better spot. It's just a matter of doing it."

Renewed faith: Shortly before Chien-Ming Wang took the mound for his third exhibition start, the Yankees announced that they had renewed the right-hander's contract for the 2007 season.

Second baseman Robinson Cano signed a one-year deal with the club, avoiding renewal. Though the budding stars should eventually be due for large raises, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he was satisfied with the process.

"I see a lot of names being renewed around baseball for a lot less than we offered," Cashman said.

Right-hander Scott Proctor and outfielder Melky Cabrera have also agreed to deals for 2007.

In game action, Wang said he was bothered slightly by tightness in his right wrist, but said he was fine and did not seek medical treatment.

Cashman and Torre were both unaware of the tightness following Wang's four-inning effort against Cleveland, in which he allowed one run — a home run to David Dellucci in the first inning — and three hits, walking one and striking out four.

Wang said that his split-finger fastball and slider were his strikeout pitches on Sunday, and that he felt "better than last time," a three-inning start against the Indians at Winter Haven, Fla., on Tuesday.

"He was fine," Torre said. "He had a couple of pitches up that got hit, but overall I thought he was very good."

It's a catching thing: Wil Nieves hopes to miss no more than a week with a tender right elbow that has put him on the shelf.

The 29-year-old catcher said he woke up around 3:30 a.m. ET on Saturday and panicked when he felt tightness in his throwing elbow, near his forearm. He said it felt better on Sunday, one day after he was sent for X-rays and an MRI exam.

"I didn't want to miss any of the spring," Nieves said. "The most important thing is to be ready for the season."

Nieves said he believes he pulled a muscle while taking batting practice, and said he had no prior injuries of that type.

It has been a rough spring for the Yankees' backup catcher hopefuls. Todd Pratt has been sidelined with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but is expected to return to action Monday; Raul Chavez broke his right hand in winter ball and started behind the other catchers.

Take a day: Designated hitter Jason Giambi was scratched from the Yankees' lineup on Sunday with calf cramps, replaced in the lineup by Bronson Sardinha.

Giambi is still expected to be one of four regulars making the trip to Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday; Cabrera, Cano and Hideki Matsui are the others.

"[Giambi] knows I wanted him to go [Monday], so I had to make a choice," Torre said. "It was an easy one to get him on that trip. If he wasn't fine, obviously we wouldn't have taken him."

This and that: Prospect Jose Tabata, 18, showed opposite-field power Sunday, homering to right off the Tribe's Jeff Harris in the ninth inning. "He's just a baby," Torre said. "There's a lot of raw talent there that we're certainly aware of." ... Bobby Abreu (strained right oblique) performed flip work and took about 50 swings off a tee Sunday, reporting no problems.

Coming up: The Yankees travel to Fort Myers for their first and only spring meeting with the Red Sox on Monday. Right-hander Carl Pavano is scheduled to start for New York in the 7:15 p.m. ET contest, two days after he left Legends Field for personal reasons and missed what would have been his second game of the spring.

Darrell Rasner and Ross Ohlendorf are also scheduled to pitch for the Yankees, who will see right-hander Tim Wakefield start for Boston. J.C. Romero and Manny Delcarmen are also slated to pitch for the Red Sox.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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