Notes: Hughes creating buzz at camp

Notes: Hughes creating buzz

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jason Giambi managed little more than a few foul balls before he -- along with the assembled crowd at Legends Field -- applauded 20-year-old phenom Phil Hughes.

"He looks like a young Rocket," Giambi said, referring to future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens. "The ball jumps out of his hand. He's going to have room to grow, too."

The five projected members of the Yankees' starting rotation took the mound Thursday at Legends Field, but it was Hughes -- considered to be the team's top pitching prospect -- who seemed to create the most buzz.

The hard-throwing right-hander threw 34 pitches to Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Raul Chavez and Todd Pratt, limiting the batters to an assortment of weakly hit offerings. Just two balls were hit in fair territory.

"He certainly knows what he's doing out there for a young kid," said manager Joe Torre, who watched the session perched behind the batting cage with general manager Brian Cashman and bench coach Don Mattingly.

Hughes admitted his control wasn't spot-on. At this stage in the spring, pitchers are typically well ahead of hitters, but Hughes appears to be a step up on everyone.

"He's definitely been blessed," said catcher Ben Davis, who received Hughes' session. "I really like his mound presence.

"I was talking to a couple of the catchers who caught him last year in Double-A and they said he never gets rattled. Of course, I don't know how much trouble he got in."

Hughes, who was 10-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A Trenton last year, used all five pitches in his session Thursday, mixing in one slider to go along with his two-seamer, four-seamer, curveball and changeup.

"I felt pretty good," Hughes said. "I'm throwing strikes and I threw a few breaking balls that were all right. This is pretty much just getting your work in."

The Yankees have maintained that Hughes is a long shot to make the starting rotation out of camp, and he was careful not to go overboard in his first live action of the spring.

Torre has said that Hughes is expected to make at least a couple of Grapefruit League starts, but Hughes, who has earned raves for a mature approach, is more interested in looking at the big picture.

"I'm looking forward to the season, not what I can show in Spring Training," Hughes said. "It'll be good to show someone what I can do, but I'm not going out there and trying to throw as hard as I can the first day out."

Hughes' destination for April is likely to be Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he has said that he is fine with that. Perhaps that's because he is secure in the knowledge that his Major League debut will arrive sooner rather than later.

"You know the kid is special," pitching coach Ron Guidry said. "He's got great ability, but we just have to wait and see what happens in his situation."

Firing bullets: The Yankees' rotation of Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano each threw 30 to 40 pitches in live batting drills Thursday, along with Hughes and right-hander Humberto Sanchez.

Of the hurlers, Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa was the quickest, rapidly working through his allotment of 40 pitches in just about eight minutes. After the workout, Guidry took the hurler aside and offered constructive criticism.

"He has to slow down in between pitches, because he works too fast," Guidry said. "He threw a lot of pitches. Everybody else was throwing 30 to 35, and he was up to 40 when I stopped him."

Igawa said in English that he felt his session was "so-so," and that he had aimed to simply throw strikes over impressing people with velocity. Guidry said that Igawa's speedy workout reminded him of himself.

"We used to just get the ball and throw it; get the ball and throw it," Guidry said.

The OK Carl: Pavano took the mound to a positive reception from the gathered attendees at Legends Field, for which he was appreciative. He also was pleased by the musical selection for his workout: a song from the "Rocky" soundtrack.

"I saw Pratt grinning ear-to-ear through his mask," Pavano said. "That's pretty tough to do."

Pavano wasn't perfect -- he drilled Alberto Gonzalez on the left bicep with an errant fastball, and the infielder later showed off the bruised stitches in the clubhouse -- but he was good enough. Pavano was able to keep the ball down and showed good sink on his pitches.

Guidry even tracked Pavano down in the weight room after the session to pat him on the back and compliment his control.

"I came out feeling good," Pavano said. "That's a positive, as far as I'm concerned."

Screen play: Two of the Yankees' hurlers -- Wang and Pavano -- requested that the protective "L" screen be removed for their sessions.

The netted utility guards pitchers from balls hit back through the middle, but also becomes an unnatural distraction and can cause pitchers to become uncomfortable or alter their motions.

"I get into bad habits [with the screen]," Pavano said.

Torre said that the screens are brought out with the concept of "safety first," but did not have an issue with some of his pitchers rejecting it.

"It does sort of interfere with your rhythm and reaching out there to finish pitches," Torre said.

The Yankees plan to have more live batting-practice drills on Saturday and are scheduled to play a 10- or 11-inning intrasquad game on Tuesday.

This and that: Yogi Berra's golf clubs have arrived and are safely stored in Torre's office. Berra, a guest instructor, is scheduled to arrive on Monday. ... Guest instructors Goose Gossage, Hector Lopez, Stump Merrill and Graig Nettles have all been spotted at Legends Field. ... Torre said that his brother, Frank, remains in good spirits. Torre, 75, is in need of a kidney transplant. ... Alex Rodriguez homered off Pettitte.

Quotable: "It looks like a corral. There's just a bunch of horses." -- Pratt, on the Yankees' wealth of young pitching.

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