Phil Hughes injury: Yankees SP could start season on DL

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Joe Girardi said "it's possible" Phil Hughes might not be ready for the start of the regular season.

New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes was diagnosed with a bulging disk in his back early last week, and manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, that "it's possible" the right-hander might not be ready for the start of the regular season.

Hughes dealt with a back injury last year during the playoffs, and the Yankees don't want to rush him back and cause more extensive damage.

Entering the spring, Hughes was considered a lock to make the team's starting rotation. Last season he maintained an ERA of 4.23 over 32 starts with a 3.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The remainder of New York's projected starting rotation includes C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. It was announced earlier this spring that Ivan Nova, the expected No. 5 starter, would have to earn his position in the team's rotation. This put him in direct competition with David Phelps for the final spot.

If Hughes is forced to begin the year on the disabled list, the Yankees could use both Nova and Phelps as starters. Once Hughes is healthy, Phelps would seem to be a likely candidate to move back into his role in the bullpen.

New York could also look outside the organization for a stopgap starter. The Dodgers currently have eight pitchers for five spots, and it's been rumored that Aaron Harang could be the odd man out in Los Angeles. There are also several veterans, including Dallas Braden and Roy Oswalt, remaining on the free agent market.

The big name out there is Kyle Lohse, but he probably wouldn't figure into the equation unless Hughes' injury is determined to be much more significant and causes him to miss an extended period of time.

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