Hughes among Yankees' spring invites

Hughes among Yankees' spring invites

NEW YORK -- The Yankees invited 21 non-roster players to Major League camp Friday, including right-hander Jeff Nelson, who announced his retirement shortly thereafter.

Heading the list of players planning on arriving in Tampa is top pitching prospect Philip Hughes, who will make his presence known as the 2004 first-round selection continues to work toward his eventual Major League debut.

Hughes, 20, made 21 starts at Double-A Trenton last season, going 10-3 with an Eastern League-leading 2.25 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 116 innings of work. Hughes won his last eight decisions at Trenton after beginning his season at Class A Tampa of the Florida State League, posting a cumulative 2.16 ERA for the year.

Hughes, who could appear in New York as soon as this season, is one of eight pitchers invited to Spring Training by the Yankees.

Also on the list are three right-handers acquired in offseason trades: 24-year-old starters Steven Jackson and Ross Ohlendorf -- both acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks this week -- and Kevin Whelan, a 23-year-old reliever who came from the Detroit Tigers in November.

The other pitchers invited to camp are right-handers Tyler Clippard, who led all Yankees Minor Leaguers with 175 strikeouts in 2006, and Steven White, plus left-hander Ben Kozlowski.

The Yankees invited six catchers to camp, set to vie with 40-man roster backstop Wil Nieves to be named Jorge Posada's backup. The list includes several catchers with Major League experience in Raul Chavez, Ben Davis and Todd Pratt, along with Minor Leaguers Francisco Cervelli, P.J. Pilittere and Omir Santos.

Andy Cannizaro, who hit his first Major League home run last Sept. 26 at Tampa Bay, is one of five infielders on the invite list. Others include Angel Chavez, Eric Duncan, Ramiro Pena and Marcos Vechionacci.

Two promising outfield prospects round out the list in speedy leadoff hitter Brett Gardner and 18-year-old Jose Tabata, who was named the second-best prospect in the Yankees' system by Baseball America after batting .298 in 86 games with Class A Charleston last season, earning selection as a South Atlantic League All-Star.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.