SOX ON DECK: Phil Hughes shuts down PawSox

Evan BrunellFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2008

As far as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre acting manager Butch Wynegar knows, Phil Hughes is scheduled to make at least one more rehab start, on Sunday at Lehigh Valley.

But Hughes, who’s rehabbing from a stress fracture in his right ribcage, gave a solid impersonation of a pitcher who’s ready for a return to the major leagues.

Hughes threw 5 1/3 commendable innings Tuesday night as the Yankees outlasted the Pawtucket Red Sox, 8-6, in an 11-inning marathon at McCoy Stadium.

The win increased the Yankees’ lead over the PawSox to 2 ½ games in the North Division standings.

Hughes allowed two runs on three hits, walked one and struck out four.

He threw 50 of 84 pitches for strikes and consistently topped out at 93-94 on the stadium radar gun.

“I felt fine, just like the last few times out,” Hughes, who was on an 85-pitch count, said. “I wanted to mix in more changeups. I threw some in counts that I normally wouldn’t throw them in. But we decided to go with it because I wanted to get a few more in.

“Overall, I felt pretty good. I haven’t felt the rib (his ninth rib) since I was in Tampa. It’s kind of a long process but it’s good to be back and throwing the ball pretty well.”

Hughes allowed maybe two hard-hit balls — a first-inning liner to right field by Joe Thurston and a ground-rule double by Gil Velazquez in the third — while cruising through the first 5 1/3 innings.

Velazquez’s leadoff double was the lone threat mounted by Pawtucket until Hughes was removed. But after Velazaqeuz advanced to third on Jeff Natale’s groundout to second, Hughes fanned Jeff Bailey on a 94 fastball and retired Thurston on a soft liner to first.

Then, with one out in the sixth, Bailey doubled to left center and Thurston walked which prompted acting manager Butch Wynegar to remove Hughes in favor of Mark Melancon. But Melancon promptly uncorked a wild pitch and Keith Ginter blooped a two-run single to center that tied the game at 2-2.

The Yankees, meanwhile, didn’t exactly “rake” Pawtucket starter Devern Hansack. They eked out a second-inning run on Chris Basak’s, two-out bloop double to right and Brett Gardner’s chop single over the head of third baseman Keith Ginter.

Hansack fanned the first two Yankees in the sixth but Shelly Duncan singled to center which prompted manager Ron Johnson to remove his starter in favor of Jon Switzer.

With Ben Broussard at-bat, Duncan stole second and scored on Broussard’s single to center.

Each team scored four runs in the 10th inning. But the Yankees won it in the 11th on Eric Duncan’s two-run double.

Not surprisingly, Hughes has little clue regarding when he’ll get the call from the big club.

“Obviously, things didn’t go real well up there at the beginning of the year,” he said. “I’m sure they want to see me prove myself down here again. However many starts that is, I’ll roll with it.

“Basically, I haven’t heard anything.”

YANKEE CLIPPINGS: The PawSox held a moment of silence before the game in honor of Yankees’ manager Dave Miley’s son, Cody, who was killed in a one-car accident in Tampa on Monday … “It’s right here, in our hearts,” infield coach Alvaro Espinoza said while pointing to his heart. “We’ve just got to put on the uniform and go out there and play the game in the name of Cody.

“A lot of players knew his son. It was terrible news (but) it’s life. It’s tough. When you get to know the son of the manager, as coaches when you receive that news, it’s tough to handle. I was driving with one of my sons when I got a call and my son took it hard. They had some common interests.”