"I'm healthy, which is huge," Hughes said. "I'm so happy to be pain-free, firing on all cylinders, feeling good."
For the past few years, Hughes has been the Pirates' ground-ball specialist, a rare breed capable of defusing jams with one pitch. He is ready to return to that role, he said, but manager Clint Hurdle would prefer to ease him into clean innings without runners on base.
"This is going to be Opening Day for him," Hurdle said. "We're excited to have him back. He's been a big part of our bullpen the last two seasons."
To make room for Hughes, the Pirates optioned right-hander Rob Scahill to Triple-A. Scahill allowed four runs on six hits in six innings over eight appearances.
Pirates meet about Zika concerns: Pirates players met for an hour on Saturday with Dr. Gary Green, Major League Baseball's medical director, as well as Dr. Brenda Rivera-Garcia, a Puerto Rican health official, and representatives from the MLB Players Association regarding their concerns about the Zika virus and their upcoming trip to Puerto Rico.
"I thought it went well," said Gerrit Cole, the Pirates' union representative. "Next step, the union and MLB are going to get together and continue to figure this out and put player safety first."
The Bucs are scheduled to play the Marlins on May 30-31 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan as MLB celebrates Roberto Clemente Day. Players from both clubs have expressed uncertainty about the trip due to the virus' outbreak in Puerto Rico.
The virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito or sexual intercourse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 683 confirmed Zika infections in Puerto Rico.
The infection can cause a serious birth defect known as microcephaly -- a condition in which children are born with unusually small heads -- and other fetal brain defects. There is no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus.
Kang entering final stretch of rehab assignment: Third baseman Jung Ho Kang has made 33 Triple-A plate appearances on his Minor League rehab assignment, batting .107 with a homer and four RBIs in nine games.
Pittsburgh prefers to have its position players take 45 to 60 at-bats during Spring Training, so Kang may not be far away from returning to the Majors.
"He's going through Spring Training," Hurdle said. "I think he's in a good place. I think he's in a productive place. ... He's very fired up and engaged."