First Pitch: Hughes on the clock

Phil Hughes' Yankees career is on the clock. At least, his status as a starting pitcher. Maybe even as a member of the team.

After looking tremendous in the spring, Hughes has lost his first two starts, with a 9.00 ERA. In his last start, against the Angels, Hughes went just 3 1/3 innings and gave up six runs (all earned). He caught too much of the plate with his fastball and never could find his secondary stuff (curveball and change).

In the eyes of one scout, Hughes has already shown what he is at 25 years of age.

"For me, I don't think he has the makeup to start," the scout said. "He is a two-inning reliever who can rear back and throw his fastball."

The Yankees are not ready to give up on Hughes. When Andy Pettitte returns, it would seem that Hughes and Freddy Garcia are the starters most likely to be yanked. The Yankees have looked at Hughes as a starter and were ecstatic over his strong spring, so if it is close, he might have the edge over Garcia.

However, Hughes' spring has not carried over to the regular season yet.

"He's gotten into some longer counts and has not been able to put hitters away," Joe Girardi said. "He has gotten plenty of strikeouts up, but he has also made some mistakes up. There is a fine line when you pitch up there. If you don't get it high enough, a lot of times it is going to be hit hard. When he chooses to go up in the zone for strikeouts, he has to make sure he gets it there."

Hughes is throwing nearly 23 pitches per inning. At that rate, to complete a game, Hughes would need 207 pitches.

"I think pitch count is one thing that stands out," Hughes said. "I just have to be more aggressive, kind of go back to what I really want to do as a pitcher, and that’s attack early and finish guys off. Just do all the little things that make a successful outing, pounding the strike zone, getting early outs and go from there."

If he doesn't, he knows he will be out of a job.

"That’s part of being a Yankee," Hughes said. "f you don't get the job done, they'll get somebody else that does."

UP NOW: I wrote about some disconcerting numbers from Hiroki Kuroda's worst start of his career. Also, Brett Gardner is headed to the DL. Mike Mazzeo has a bunch of notes on Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones and Nick Swisher.

ON DECK: Hughes (0-2, 9.00 ERA) versus Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.75 ERA) finish this four-game series Thursday night. On Friday in Boston, the Yankees celebrate Fenway Park's 100th anniversary with a 3:05 p.m. game against the Red Sox, featuring Ivan Nova (2-0, 4.15) versus Clay Bucholz (1-0, 9.82). On Saturday, it will be Freddy Garcia (0-1, 6.97) versus Felix Doubrant (0-0, 5.40). On Sunday, CC Sabathia (1-0, 5.59) versus Daniel Bard (0-2, 4.63).

IN THE HOLE: Mazzeo will bring some interesting Hughes stats to the blog at 10:30 a.m.. Around noon, Mark Simon has his W2W4. Katie Sharp has the always-fun YankeeMetrics at 1:30 p.m. Matt Ehalt and I will be covering the game Thursday night. We will be on the blog all day. Thanks for reading.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you believe in Hughes?