Wednesday night is a big night for the New York Yankees, and it is not because shortstop Derek Jeter is at 2,996 hits and within reach of the 3,000-hit milestone. It is because the Yankees will send right-hander Phil Hughes to the mound for the first time since April 14. Hughes has been on the disabled list since April 15 with a still undetermined right shoulder issue that robbed him of several miles per hour on his fastball.
Hughes lugged a 13.94 ERA to the disabled list after three disastrous April starts. The Yankees need for Hughes, at 25 a cornerstone of their current and future pitching plans, to more closely resemble the pitcher who went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA a season ago than the hopelessly lost version they saw earlier this season.
Hughes was often clocked in the low to mid-90s during his rehab starts, much more like what the Yankees have come to expect from him. Hughes is looking forward to getting back on a big-league mound Wednesday against Cleveland.
"It should be exciting," said Hughes, who had a 1.93 ERA in three Minor League rehab starts spanning 14 innings. "I'm happy to have this opportunity. I was hoping I didn't need too many starts down in the minor leagues. I'm excited to be back, and hopefully tomorrow goes really well."
As for Jeter's pursuit of 3,000 hits, that may be put on hold Wednesday. Manager Joe Girardi has been saying he plans to give the shortstop a night off after two rehab games and two big-league starts, fearing pushing Jeter too hard as he returns from a calf strain.