Angels-Yankees Preview

Phil Hughes had a rough time in short stints as a starter for

the New York Yankees the last two years. He’s counting on an

improved repertoire to help him fare better this time.

Hughes makes his season debut Thursday night when the Yankees

finish a three-game home series against the Los Angeles Angels.

After replacing Chien-Ming Wang in the rotation for New York

last April 28, Hughes (8-3, 3.03 ERA) went 3-2 with a 5.45 ERA in

seven starts before being shifted to the bullpen. He shined in

relief, going 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA.

Hughes began the 2008 season in the rotation, going 0-4 with a

9.00 ERA in six outings in April before being placed on the

disabled list with a stress fracture in his right rib cage.

The 23-year-old right-hander has added a changeup he has used in

two simulated games that he believes will help him stay in the

rotation this year.

“From the last time I started to now, the changeup has made all

the difference,” Hughes told the Yankees’ official Web site. “I

don’t have a regular-season game to judge that off.”

The Yankees kept Hughes in Tampa for the extra work since they

didn’t need a fifth starter until now. He’s 2-0 with a 5.23 ERA

against the Angels in four regular-season appearances, making one

start.

“It’s early enough, so I don’t feel like I’m too out of the

loop,” Hughes said.

New York (5-3) will give the ball to Hughes after No. 4 starter

Javier Vazquez turned in a second straight poor outing Wednesday.

Vazquez gave up four runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-3 loss.

Los Angeles (3-6) dropped six of its first eight for the first

time since 1972 before Joel Pineiro struck out seven in seven sharp

innings for his first win. The top third of the Angels’ batting

order produced six hits and three RBIs.

“We need more games like this,” said manager Mike Scioscia, who

held a closed-door meeting after a 7-5 loss Tuesday. “If we had

been playing like this for the first week there’s no way we’re

sitting with a 3-6 record.”

Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth for his first save after

the Angels placed closer Brian Fuentes on the 15-day disabled list

earlier in the day due to a strained back.

Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each had two hits for New York,

which could find it tougher at the plate Thursday against Scott

Kazmir, making his season debut after opening on the disabled list

with a strained hamstring.

Jeter is 4 for 36 (.111) with 11 strikeouts against Kazmir

(10-9, 4.89) for his lowest average against any pitcher he has

faced at least 20 times. Cano is 4 for 26 (.154) and Alex Rodriguez

3 for 24 (.125).

The left-hander is 6-5 with a 2.67 ERA against New York in 15

appearances – 14 starts.

One Yankee who may be happy to see Kazmir is Mark Teixeira, who

is 7 for 11 against him. Teixeira has gone hitless in seven of

eight games and is batting .097.