Cashman ''expects'' Hughes and Nova in rotation

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said "without a doubt,'' he expects both Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova to be in his team's starting rotation in 2012. But he cautioned that the status of both could change if they don't pitch up to the expected standards.

"They have to continue earning that spot,'' Cashman said. "I won't say every day, but you have to show enough on a consistent basis that you ward off any competition.''

Cashman's warning seemed more directed at Hughes, who won 18 games as a rookie in 2010 but fell to 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA in 2011 and wound up in the minors after inexplicably losing his fastball. "He's better than that,'' Cashman said. "He's a rotation guy.''

As reported last week by ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand, Hughes, who appeared pudgy for much of last season, will go to Athletes Performance in the off-season, a Phoenix training facility commonly known as "fat camp.''

Cashman said Hughes' decision was his own, not at the behest of the team, but acknowledged that Hughes' lack of conditioning may have contributed to his early-season struggles.

“I think physical conditioning got him out of the gate slow when he showed up to spring training, '' Cashman said. "I think he was eight pounds over when he showed up for spring training, but we knocked it out and he took care of it with the extra work in the spring. I don’t think that had anything to do with his season.”

As of today, Cashman said he expected the 2012 Yankees rotation to include CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Hughes and Nova, who win 16 games in his first full season as a starter.

“I feel good about having those guys,'' Cashman said. "It doesn’t guarantee anything, but I feel very confident in them. As long as they’re healthy, I feel confident in what their abilities are and what they’re able to accomplish.”

Cashman said the remaining spot could be filled through free agency -- he met Tuesday afternoon with Bob Garber, the agent for C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt -- or a training camp competition among the likes of of Adam Warren, David Phelps and Hector Noesi, who Cashman said "is throwing the heck out of the ball in the Domincan Winter League.''

He also did not rule out a return by either Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, or both. Both came to camp last year as non-roster invites and signed minor-league deals; this year, having had good comeback seasons, both are free agents.

"It depends on how their conversations are going with other clubs,'' Cashman said. "I know can't get those guys as non-roster invites again. I know my conversations this time are going to be a little bit different than what they were before.''