Photo credit: AP | Phil Hughes delivers a pitch during a workout at spring training in Tampa, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2013) TAMPA, Fla. - Phil Hughes said being ready for the start of the regular season isn't "out of the question."
But the Yankees' righthander, out since Feb. 18 when he suffered two bulging discs in his upper back, has yet to pitch in a game and the clock is not on his side.
Hughes did throw a 26-pitch bullpen Monday morning, a session he called "a big step." It was his first full bullpen session since before the injury, though the righthander did throw 10 pitches off the mound Saturday.
"The other day I was just kind of feeling my way through those 10 but today was just like I was throwing a normal bullpen," Hughes said. "I wasn't thinking about my back, I was letting it go and got through that without any issues. It's a big positive and I just have to make sure I don't have any setbacks going forward."
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has given Hughes a series of dates -- first batting practice session, first game, etc. -- the pitcher needs to hit in order to be ready for the regular season.
"I know there's dates I have to hit," Hughes said. "Larry knows what they are, and I assume by him telling me that I have BP Thursday would be on track to be ready to go."
Hughes, who figures to be the No. 4 starter in the Yankees' rotation, said that after Thursday's bullpen session he would likely be ready for a simulated or regular game.
If Hughes isn't ready to go for the start of the regular season, Ivan Nova and David Phelps, who have pitched well in their competition for the fifth starter spot, would be slotted into the rotation.
Hughes went 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA last season. In 191 1/3 innings over 32 starts, Hughes struck out 165 batters but also allowed 35 home runs, tied for second most in the majors in 2012.
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