CHICAGO — Phil Hughes’ performance on Tuesday night was good enough to keep him in the rotation.
For how much longer, and what that means for Ivan Nova, has yet to be determined. But after hurling six breezy, shutout innings against the White Sox before rain eventually ended the game in the seventh inning at U.S. Cellular Field, Hughes is now in line to start next Tuesday against the Angels.
“I think our plans right now are to keep Phil on rotation on Tuesday,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who cautioned that those plans are still not “set in stone” and he still hadn’t told Hughes.
“We want Nova to throw well, and if he continues to throw well, we’ll have to answer some questions as to exactly what we’re going to do,” Girardi added. “But Phil was real good last night.”
His best of an injury-riddled 2011, actually.
Hughes needed only 65 pitches to get through six frames, which saw him give up only three hits while walking none and putting no runners in scoring position during the Yankees’ rain-shortened 6-0 win.
The Yankees are going with a six-man rotation this week, with Nova starting the series finale against the White Sox on Thursday. Girardi’s preference is to cut it down to five, but he’s open to going with six starters another time through — though that would make juggling his starters extra difficult because of Monday’s off-day.
“I mean, there’s a lot of different things we can do,” Girardi said. “That’s the good thing about it. The best thing is to have everyone throwing well, and contributing from some place. That’s the best scenario that we can have. I thought Ivan had a good start the other night, and Phil had a good start last night. I mean, that’s great. Let’s just keep it going. We’ll keep guys rolling.”
Left to be determined is whether Nova stays in the rotation or not. And if he doesn’t, whether he ends up in the Minor Leagues or pitches out of the bullpen.
Nova knows which one of those two he prefers.
“I always say the big leagues is the big leagues,” said Nova, who gave up two runs in seven innings during his big league return on Saturday. “Nobody wants to be in the Minor Leagues. If they think that, they need me in the bullpen, I’ll go to the bullpen. I’m not saying that I want to go there, but if that’s the decision that they make, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Girardi wouldn’t commit to Hughes past his next start, and wouldn’t say whether he’d prefer to keep Nova stretched out in the Minor Leagues — perhaps to keep him as an option to start during the Aug. 27 doubleheader against the Orioles — or use him as a reliever, at which he has little experience.
All Girardi knows right now is that Hughes is making his next start.
The rest is still up in the air.
“I can’t tell you exactly what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “I wish I could, but we can’t. We just don’t have it ironed out. We have to see what we have this week.”