NEW YORK -- The last-place New York Yankees, mired in their longest losing streak in almost two years and on the verge of their worst 20-game start in 16 years, are turning to a 20-year-old rookie to end their woes.
Highly touted Phil Hughes will make his major league debut Thursday when the Yankees play the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees (8-11) limped home after being swept in a three-game series at Boston and in a two-game set at Tampa Bay. The five-game skid is the longest for New York since a six-game losing streak from May 28 to June 3, 2005, and the Yankees need a win to avoid their worst 20-game start since going 7-13 in 1991.
A rainout Wednesday has added to the intrigue -- and perhaps the pressure -- surrounding Hughes, who is considered the Yankees' top pitching prospect. The 23rd overall pick in the 2004 entry draft, Hughes went 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Scranton. He struck out 10 over six scoreless innings in his last start on April 18, allowing just two hits.
"I'm anxious to see him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He doesn't say much. He just goes about his business. I'm sure it's going to be electric for him."
Hughes will be the youngest Yankees starting pitcher since 1984, when Jose Rijo was on the team at the age of 18 and turned 19 during the season. Wednesday's scheduled starter, Andy Pettitte, will now pitch the series opener against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
"It's a necessity for us," said Torre, who said Hughes was the only minor leaguer recommended to start by the team's player development staff. "They don't think it's the wrong time for him. His ability, his presence, I think he's mature enough."
Despite the slow start, no one on the Yankees is panicking, despite the frustration of scoring at least four runs in each of the five losses on the road trip.
"It's the absolute worst road trip we could imagine, being 0-5," center fielder Johnny Damon said after Tuesday's loss. "We're 0-5 without being outplayed. We're going out there and we're doing OK. We're just not finishing out the other teams."
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who had his 23-game hitting streak end Tuesday, will try to start a new one and continue his torrid start. Rodriguez is batting .343 (12-for-35) with seven homers and 19 RBI in eight home games and is 3-for-8 with two homers and six RBI lifetime against Blue Jays starter A.J. Burnett (1-1, 5.57 ERA).
Burnett is coming off a quality outing. The right-hander limited the Baltimore Orioles to two runs in seven innings Friday, but was helpless as the Toronto bullpen squandered a two-run lead in a 5-4 loss.
"It's something that these young guys are going to have to learn to deal with," Burnett said of the relievers. "They all deserve to be here or they wouldn't be here."
Burnett went 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Yankees last season, losing the final two.
The Blue Jays (10-10) took two games from the Red Sox at Fenway Park earlier this week, capped by a 10-3 rout Tuesday. Vernon Wells went 4-for-5 with four runs and three RBI, and was 6-for-9 with seven runs scored in the series.
"It was a good time to start playing well," Wells said. "Hopefully we can continue doing that."