Hughes goes six innings in minor league game

Phil Hughes is trying to make himself the front runner for one

of the three open spots in the New York Yankees’ rotation.

He’s doing a pretty good job.

Hughes allowed two runs and six hits over six innings in a minor

league game Monday. The right-hander is competing for one of three

starting jobs with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Michael Pineda

behind opening-day starter CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.

”I’ve done everything I can do. It’s their call,” Hughes said.

”I feel like right now that I’m doing everything I can to make

that decision as hard as possible.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sunday that team officials are

expected to discuss the rotation this week. The Yankees were off

Monday.

New York pitching coach Larry Rothschild watched Hughes pitch,

and said he hasn’t reached any conclusions yet on the final

rotation.

”He’s pretty much improved every time out and the changeup has

come a long way, which is something that we really wanted to see,”

Rothschild said. ”He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do as

far as the offseason, coming in and continuing to work on the

things he needed to.”

Hughes went 5-5 with 5.79 ERA in 17 games last year after

winning 18 games in 2010. He was hampered by a right shoulder

injury.

”I just wanted to come out and pitch well, and I feel like I’ve

done that for the most part,” Hughes said. ”Obviously, nobody is

going to be absolutely perfect. Everyone is trying to get ready.

Nobody is going to be in midseason form, but overall I felt like I

did what I wanted to do coming to camp. Besides that I can’t really

do much else.”

Francisco Cervelli caught Hughes and said he looks like the

pitcher who won 18 games.

”I think he’s pretty close right now,” Cervelli said. ”You

can see he’s got command. He has trust in his fastball. He can

throw it anytime he wants.”

In the game between Class A Tampa and Clearwater, Hughes struck

out four, hit a batter and threw 66 of 91 pitches for strikes.

Phillies minor leaguer Albert Cartwright leadoff the first with

a single off Hughes during an 11-pitch at-bat, and added an RBI

single on the seventh pitch he faced in the third. The other run

Hughes gave up came on a third-inning homer by Cameron Rupp.

The rotation competition could have a second phase around May 1,

when it’s possible Andy Pettitte could be ready to pitch in the

majors.

Pettitte, who ended his brief retirement by agreeing to minor

league contract on March 16, will have his second batting practice

session on Tuesday.

”Very impressive. Very professional,” Rothschild said. ”His

stuff is there, you can see it clearly. I don’t think I need to

tell you, but he knows what he’s doing. There’s a lot of things

that are really good to see right now with him.”

NOTES: Sabathia is scheduled to pitch Tuesday night against

Toronto. The left-hander will make his final exhibition appearance

Sunday in the first major league spring training game at the Miami

Marlins new ballpark. … Cervelli homered in five at-bats, and

threw out three runners attempting to steal second.