It may be too soon to tell for sure if a dip in Phil Hughes' velocity is a serious problem, but it was enough to concern pitching coach Larry Rothschild after Detroit pounded Hughes for five runs and five hits in four innings in Sunday's 10-7 loss to the Tigers.
Hughes has a history of not getting his best fastball until the season is under way -- the same thing happened last year and he ended up with 18 wins -- but he topped out at 91 miles per hour yesterday and needs to be around 94 to be his best. Hughes said he needed to continue to develop arm strength.
"There's going to be concern until you see it," Rothschild said. "That's just natural. I think he probably feels the same way. When you get going and you start to see the velocity, then you can relax a little bit. Until then, we'll try to figure out if there is anything in a routine that will work for him. We've been trying to figure it out through spring, so we'll continue."
The Yankees were hoping that their starting pitching problems were limited to how A.J. Burnett would fare after a dismal 2010 and what they could get out of back-end hurlers Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova. But Hughes, apparently, is no sure thing, either.
Sunday, Hughes shifted to his cutter and slider to try to "get by," he said. But Rothschild also noted that Hughes may have been trying too hard to get more velocity and it wrecked his touch locating pitches.
"Location was big," Hughes said. "Obviously, my velocity wasn't what I'd like it to be at this stage. When I'm not hitting my spots and my velocity is down, it's not going to be a very good outcome. I'm hoping that turns around."
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