Phil Hughes May Not Be Ready For New York Yankees Come Opening Day

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another dose of injury news for the New York Yankees. With Curtis Granderson already out for 10 weeks with a broken right forearm and Kevin Youkilis out day-to-day due to a strained oblique, the news on Phil Hughes‘ injured back has gotten worse.

According to reports, the right-hander, slated to be the fourth man in the Yankees starting pitching rotation, might not be ready by Opening Day.

Hughes suffered the injury last Thursday during pitching fielding drills. At first, the diagnosis had him out for only two weeks, well in time to make some spring starts and get ready for the regular season. Now, if the new reports are true, the Yankees will not only have to struggle with replacing Granderson in their lineup but also Hughes in the starting rotation.

At the outset of Spring Training, it was assumed the fifth spot of the rotation was going to be between Ivan Nova and David Phelps, with Adam Warren having an outside shot of gaining the role. Now, it may be that all three men make the Yankees Opening Day roster, with two of them in the starting rotation and one as the long man coming out of the bullpen.

Last season, in his third year with the Yankees, Nova regressed from his good 2011 campaign. Despite a winning 12-8 record and increasing his strike-out totals from 98 to 153 with just five more innings pitched, Nova’s ERA increased to 5.02 from 3.70. In 2011, Nova had a 16-4 record and finished fourth in the voting for the American League Rookie of the Year award. He was eligible for the award after pitching just 42 innings in 2010.

As for Phelps, the right-hander excelled in his rookie year last season. In 99.2 innings pitched, Phelps posted a 3.34 ERA and a 4-4 record. He appeared in 22 games as a reliever and 11 as a starter. In his 11 starts, he had a 2-2 record and 3.77 ERA over 57.1 innings pitched.

As for Warren, the 25-year old has spent his entire career in the minors outside of one appearance he made for the Yankees last season. In four seasons thru the Yankees minor league system, Warren has posted a 28-25 record with a 3.11 ERA. All 90 of his appearances have been starts, striking out 394 hitters over 497 innings. In his lone start for the Yankees last season, he allowed six earned runs in two and a third innings pitched.

The scenario with the last two rotation spots and the long-man role could play out in different ways. With Nova and Phelps having the most major league experience of the three, they could earn the two rotation spots and Warren earn the bullpen role. Another scenario could see Nova and Warren earning the rotation spots and Phelps the long-man role since he has the most bullpen experience of the three.

Also, with still a month worth of spring games remaining, other names could emerge depending on who excels and who disappoints during the month of March.

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