Yankees' Hughes to face Blue Jays on Thursday

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Phil Hughes will be making his major
league debut earlier than expected.

A day after getting swept by the Boston Red Sox, the New York
Yankees said Monday they plan on having their top pitching prospect
start Thursday against Toronto.

New York had been saying all spring that Hughes would progress
slowly through the system. But after his team dropped four games
behind the AL East-leading Red Sox, Yankees manager Joe Torre
didn't rule out that the 20-year-old right-hander, taken in the
first round of the 2004 amateur draft, might make more than one

"If we're comfortable and we sense he's comfortable, we'll see
what we do," Torre said before the Yankees lost to Tampa Bay 10-8,
extending their losing streak to four.

Hughes is 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts this season at
Triple-A Scranton, and he pitched six shutout innings last
Wednesday at Syracuse, allowing two hits, striking out 10 and
walking none. The Yankees haven't started a pitcher than young
since since Jose Rijo pitched as an 18- and 19-year-old in 1984,
according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"It's a necessity for us," Torre said. "They don't think it's
the wrong time for him. His ability, his presence, I think he's
mature enough."

Torre said Hughes was the only minor league pitcher recommended
by the player development staff to make Thursday's start.

"I'm anxious to see him," Torre said. "He doesn't say much.
He just goes about his business. I'm sure it's going to be electric
for him."

In Sunday's 7-6 loss at Boston, Chase Wright made only his
second big league start and became only the second major league
pitcher to allow homers to four consecutive batters. Before last
week, Wright had not pitched above Double-A.

Wright was optioned to Double-A Trenton on Monday when the
Yankees activated left fielder Hideki Matsui from the 15-day
disabled list.

"It was a good experience," Wright said. "I learned a lot. Go
back to Trenton and just keep working hard and hopefully I'll get
another opportunity."

New York is scrambling to cope with injuries to its starting
rotation. Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to come off the disabled
list Tuesday following a hamstring injury. Andy Pettitte, who
already has pitched twice in long relief, starts Wednesday, leaving
Jeff Karstens, Kei Igawa and Wang to start against the Red Sox this
weekend at Yankee Stadium.

Matsui had been out since straining his left hamstring on April

"It took probably 10 days to where I was pretty close," Matsui
said through an interpreter.

Mike Mussina, on the DL with a hamstring injury, is scheduled
for a bullpen session Tuesday and could pitch in a minor league
rehab game Friday, most likely for Trenton at Harrisburg. If all
goes well, Torre said Mussina is on line to pitch against Texas on
May 3.

Carl Pavano, sidelined with right forearm tightness, played
catch for a second straight day, but there is no timetable for his
return. He stills feels a "grabbing" sensation when throwing.

"It will work its way out," Pavano said. "Just keep working
through it."

CF Johnny Damon, who has been slowed by back soreness, was
not in the starting lineup. Torre said he wanted to give Damon one
of the two games off on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field.
"I'm very capable of starting tonight," Damon said. "With the
outfielders here, it's really easy to rest me." ... C Jorge Posada
(left thumb) was back in the lineup. He didn't start the previous
two games. ... Backup C Wil Nieves, who dislocated his left thumb
catching a pitch during Sunday's game, said he was available to
play. "It was scary," Nieves said. "It never happened before."