Phil Hughes May Miss Start of 2013 Season

By Daniel J.

After their disastrous end to 2012, the New York Yankees want to make sure they get off to a nice start in 2013, but of course, they also have to think long term as they aim to capture their 28th World Series title.

That means monitoring injuries and not forcing players to overdo things, especially in spring training. Phil Hughes has been slated as the No. 4 man in New York’s starting rotation, but a bulging disk in his upper back may prevent him from starting the season.

“Is it in jeopardy, his starting? It’s possible, yeah,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, according to “I think it’s too early to tell, though.”

Hughes has not thrown a baseball since feeling pain during a fielding drill on Feb. 18. Since then, Hughes has been working in a pool and going through an anti-inflammatory program with the hope to return to the diamond soon, however, he knows that taking it slow is probably the best approach.

“Every day is worrisome that I’m not throwing,” said Hughes. “But it’s a double-edged sword. I don’t want to push this thing and have it become a recurring issue, but at the same time, every day is a day lost, so I’m kind of in that in-between zone.”

Even though Hughes is pain-free now, Girardi is being cautious with his young arm. He said Hughes will not be plugged back into the rotation until he can throw 75 pitches, which could take four to five starts. That means in order for Hughes to be ready for the beginning of the regular season, he would need to begin starting in preseason games on March 14. The team is estimating that Hughes will be out two more weeks, which places his expected return on March 12, which is cutting it pretty close.

“He could probably get away with four starts,” Girardi said. “So I think it’s possible, yeah.”

Although the Yankees certainly don’t want to risk causing a more serious injury by starting Hughes too soon, they also have to be concerned that he may be a bit rusty come the regular season. Getting shelled in his first couple of outings could hurt his confidence and the team.

The aging Yankees will need a healthy team if they are going to compete for another title. New York is currently ranked eighth in the World Series futures odds at 15/1, and losing Hughes for an extended period of time would only hurt their chances ever more.

We’ll have to see how things play out this spring and we’ll be sure to keep an eye on Hughes and other major injuries that could affect futures odds as they reveal themselves.