Youk, Hughes progessing -- s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y

TAMPA, Fla. -- Aside from both being Yankees, Kevin Youkilis and Phil Hughes have two things in common: Both say they are pain-free. And neither has any idea when they will be allowed to play again.

Youkilis, who was scratched from yesterday's game against the Phillies with what the Yankees are calling a sore oblique, came to the ballpark this morning, took some swings with a fungo bat, sat in on a 90-minute Players Association meeting, and went home without knowing what's in store for him next.

"I'm perfectly all right [but] I'm following all orders," said Youkilis, who continues to seem bemused by the caution displayed by his new manager, Joe Girardi, and the Yankees' medical staff. "For me, the limitations of holding me back stinks, but I understand what they’re doing. And it makes a lot of sense."

Youkilis said he had no idea when he would be cleared to play, but said, "If they let me play tomorrow, I'm totally in for playing tomorrow."

As for Hughes, his return is further off although he, too, reported no further problems with the bulging disk that caused some back pain nine days ago. Hughes completed a six-day course of anti-inflammatories and has been working in a pool for the past couple of days. The original diagnosis was to shut him down for two weeks, and now it seems his inactivity will be at least that long, if not longer.

"I could come in in two days and they could tell me, you’re throwing today," Hughes said. "I just don’t know beyond the pool work what the plan is for me."

The problem Hughes has that Youkilis doesn't have is that he needs a certain number of starts to be ready for the start of the season, which is less than five weeks away.

"Well, every day (of inactivity) is worse in that I’m not throwing," Hughes said. "But 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 that it’s over and done with. But at the same time, every day is a day lost, so I’m kind of in that in-between zone."

Hughes estimated he would need 5 to 6 starts to get his pitch count up to 70 pitches, the minimum he would need to be ready to make a major-league start.