Pitcher Phil Hughes of the New York Yankees struggled last season and has arrived at spring training in better shape this year.
BRADENTON, Fla. — Pitcher Phil Hughes came to spring training last year several pounds overweight, and the New York Yankees were unhappy.
But according to Hughes, none of the team’s officials expressed their displeasure directly to him. Hughes said they did not have to.
This year, he arrived at spring training in much better shape. After a season in which he went 5-5 with a 5.79 earned-run average, raising doubts about the trajectory of his career, Hughes is competing for a place in the rotation.
Hughes went 18-8 and was an All-Star in 2010, so the minimum he could do to get his career realigned was to arrive early and with a leaner body. He did so, which was smart, because even if the Yankees did not tell Hughes directly, they questioned whether he had the proper mental focus a year ago.
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“There’s a concern,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said in an unusually candid analysis of a player. “The thing is, I’ve seen him work very hard before. It does question where their mindset is. You know, ‘Where’s your mindset?’ “
Hughes, 25, made his first start of spring training Tuesday, and the results were mixed. Many of his pitches were too high in the strike zone, but he did not walk anyone. He allowed one earned run and four hits in 1-1/3 innings in a 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Perhaps most important after a year in which his velocity sagged, his fastball was measured at 93 mph. Hughes conceded he probably never hit 90 mph on the radar gun last spring training.
“For me, last year was a failure and I didn’t want to do that again,” he said. “So I made sure I had no excuses coming into spring. I was ready to go. I was strong.”
Unless things change drastically, Hughes is battling former Mariner Freddy Garcia for the fifth spot in the rotation.
• Left-hander Johan Santana of the New York Mets returned to the mound for his first game against major-league hitters in 18 months. The two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched two scoreless innings as a Mets split squad beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-6 in an exhibition game in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
He had surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder in September 2010.
“Finally I had an opportunity to go out there and finally get the first one out of the way,” Santana said.
• Shortstop Jose Reyes was hitless in three at-bats in his spring debut for the Miami Marlins, who lost to the Detroit Tigers 3-1 in Jupiter, Fla.
Reyes agreed to a $106 million, six-year contract with the Marlins over the winter, leaving the Mets in free agency.
Tigers starter Rick Porcello allowed an unearned run and a hit over two innings.
• Albert Pujols doubled again and scored in the Los Angeles Angels’ 6-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox in Tempe, Ariz.
Pujols left the world champion Cardinals and signed with the Angels in the offseason.
The three-time National League most valuable player went 2 for 3 with a double Monday in his exhibition debut with the Angels.
• Kyle Kendrick of Mount Vernon and Cliff Lee each threw two innings, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 7-0 victory over Toronto in Dunedin, Fla.
• Alfonso Soriano hit two home runs and a double to lead the Chicago Cubs to an 11-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Mesa, Ariz.
Dale Sveum picked up his first victory since he was hired to manage the Cubs in November.
• Melky Cabrera homered from both sides of the plate, helping the San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in Glendale, Ariz.