Hughes excited to be back on mound

Righty makes first start since having rib removed last year

Hughes excited to be back on mound

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Before his Spring Training debut in the Twins' 8-7 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday at JetBlue Park, right-hander Phil Hughes hadn't faced hitters in a game situation since a line drive fractured his left femur just above his knee on June 9.

Prior to the injury, Hughes also experienced pain in his throwing shoulder, which had caused fatigue in the arm and a drop in velocity. He ultimately underwent surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome in July, getting a rib taken out to remove pressure on the nerves in his throwing shoulder.

Hughes was excited to get back on the mound on Saturday, allowing two runs on four hits over two innings. Hughes said he came away feeling fine, but he didn't have his best command.

"Felt like it had been 8 1/2 months," Hughes said. "You throw live BPs and bullpen [sessions], but nothing compares to getting on a mound with people in the stands and facing what figures to be pretty close to an Opening Day lineup on a pretty good team. I was a little shaky early, trying to find my command, but I felt like I made a couple decent pitches."

Hughes scuffled in a 21-pitch first, allowing runs on a double from Hanley Ramirez and an RBI groundout from Mitch Moreland. Hughes settled down the next inning, needing only eight pitches, including an inning-ending double play. Of his 29 pitches, 18 went for strikes, getting first-pitch strikes on three of the nine batters he faced.

"That was kind of frustrating, because I wanted to work some sequences," Hughes said. "It makes it a little bit more difficult when you're behind. I couldn't throw a first-pitch strike there until maybe the second inning. It was a little bit of a struggle command-wise, but I can't say it was necessarily a surprise. With the extra adrenaline and you're out there facing actual hitters, it's a little different."

Hughes, though, said he was pleased he felt healthy during his outing and that he never had to worry about his shoulder or his knee.

"It wasn't anything I was thinking about," Hughes said. "I was just trying to hit my locations and work both sides of the plate. I wanted to throw some breaking balls and things like that, but that wasn't even a thought."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.