"He's going to pitch somewhere," Girardi said Friday. "I just can't tell you where that is because I don't have an answer, and I may not have one (Saturday) either."
Hughes struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings during an 88-pitch outing for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday afternoon.
Girardi announced his pitching probables for the Cleveland Indians' series early next week: A.J. Burnett is slated to pitch Monday, CC Sabathia Tuesday and Ivan Nova Wednesday. However, he insinuated that plan could change, meaning Hughes could be a candidate to start Wednesday in Cleveland.
"I don't mean to be a smarta--, but they're 'probables,'" Girardi said. "Our starters are not etched in stone. Every starter that goes out is a probable. I have the option of changing my mind, but if they see their name out there in the lineup, it is definite."
Hughes could pitch for Triple-A Scranton on Monday night -- five days from his last outing -- but the Yankees would then run the risk that he might not be able to start again until after the All-Star break, which begins on July 11.
"We have to decide how we get through this weekend," Girardi said. "And if we decide (if) we wanna give him one more start in the minor leagues to build him up further, or do we feel he's ready to go, that's the determination we have to make in the next couple days."
Girardi insisted that the 24-year-old rookie Nova, who is 7-4 with a 4.26 ERA and pitched in the Yankees' 5-1 win against the New York Mets on Friday night in the first game of the Subway Series at Citi Field, is not pitching for his job.
"His job is not going to be determined on whether or not he pitches great (Friday)," Girardi said. "And he's been in that situation where news came out that Hughes was coming back and he threw a gem, so he's been through this before. He needs to focus on what he can do, just go out and pitch."
Girardi has been very impressed with Nova, who has pitched better of late.
"He's pitched very well for us," Girardi said. "Each month it's gotten better and better and better now that he's incorporating all his pitches. I think he's pitched better and better. And he's found ways to get through starts when he didn't have his best stuff. I think he's pitched pretty well. I think he's grown up a lot this year and I think he needs to grow."
Girardi noted that how right-hander Bartolo Colon fares in his first outing back from the disabled list on Saturday afternoon could factor into his decision.
"Bart's pitching (Saturday), so we gotta see what happens," Girardi said. "We'll make a decision when we have to."
Girardi believes that Colon should be around a pitch count of 80, and hopes the 38-year-old, who was 5-3 with a 3.10 ERA prior to injuring his hamstring on June 12 and being placed on the DL, can give the Yankees around six innings.
Girardi has contemplated going with a six-man rotation, he told reporters Thursday.
However, if he does go with a regular five-man rotation, Nova would likely be the odd man out. Colon and veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia would be the other logical candidates to move to the bullpen to make way for Hughes.
The 25-year-old Hughes has been on the DL with right arm inflammation since April 15 after he mysteriously lost his fastball velocity earlier in the season. He is 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA.
Hughes' fastball was averaging 89.3 mph, according to FanGraphs.com, but was clocked in the 92-94 mph range on Wednesday afternoon. Hughes recorded 20 swinging strikes for the Thunder, and 48 of his 88 pitches registered between 91-94 mph on the radar gun.
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.