Hughes throws batting practice

TAMPA, Fla. -- Phil Hughes took another step on his road back to the Yankees starting rotation this morning, throwing 26 pitches in a live BP session to Walter Ibarra and Addison Maruszak. Afterward, Hughes proclaimed his command a tad off, but his schedule pretty much on for the beginning of the season, assuming he can make four starts, including a simulated game on Monday, between now and when his first regular-season turn would come up on April 7.

"Everything's got to go right for me," he said. "But I would rather miss one start in the beginning than miss a whole bunch later on."

Hughes was shut down on February 20, two days after experiencing pain in his upper back during a fielding drill. An MRI revealed a bulging disk in his mid-back and he did not pick up a ball for two weeks. Then, he spent nearly a week working out in a pool before starting from square one, playing catch and eventually moving up to bullpen sessions.

"I think it’ s still really early to judge if he’ll be ready to start the season," Joe Girardi said. "I would like to leave here with five starters and if he can make a start here pretty quick it gives him a much better chance."

Hughes, who shared the team lead in wins last year with 16, was pencilled in as the Yankees' No. 4 starter before the injury. Now, the possibility is that both Ivan Nova and David Phelps, who were fighting for the final rotation spot, could go north with the club while Hughes remains behind to make at least one more start.

He might be minor-league bound," Girardi said. "But just for the day he starts."