Hughes once again focusing on his changeup

Phil Hughes will be focusing on his changeup at spring training,

again.

The New York Yankees right-hander, who went 18-8 last season,

worked extensively on the pitch at spring training one year ago. A

fast regular-season start saw Hughes often bypassing it after the

All-Star break, which likely contributed to a second-half record of

7-6.

”I think, maybe, that hurt me looking back on it because I

really didn’t keep up with it as much as I would have liked,”

Hughes said. ”Maybe when fatigue set in, and I really needed that

changeup to get me through those games, it just wasn’t there.”

The Yankees, barring a trade, have two open rotation spots

behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Hughes heading into Monday’s

reporting day for pitchers and catchers. The trio of returning

starters are being counted on to help pick up the slack following

the offseason retirement of Andy Pettitte.

”Obviously, he’s a guy that we’re going to miss a lot,” Hughes

said. ”Everytime we needed, like, a big start from a guy, he’s

been the guy. That’s the nature of the game. Guys retire.”

Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are

among the rotation candidates.

”Things always tend to work themselves out,” Hughes said.

”There’s always going to be that one guy that steps up and does a

great job.”

Hughes spent time during the winter reflecting on his

disappointing finish.

”You have a bad second half, all I thought about was those bad

games,” he said. ”That’s a tough feeling, but I think it’s good

because I had the offseason to think about it. That was fresh in my

mind. That’s really something I want to improve upon.”

Hughes has already thrown several times off a mound at the

Yankees’ minor league complex under the watchful eyes of new

pitching coach Larry Rothschild. And over the upcoming six weeks of

spring training, the duo will continue addressing changeup

development.

”It will be a focal point,” Hughes said. ”And sticking to it

no matter what kind of success I have in the beginning.”