Will Phil Hughes Become Eighth Inning Answer?

Starter moves to bullpen to make room for Wang

If the Yankees and Rangers avoid raindrops long enough to play a game on Thursday afternoon, Chien-Ming Wang will be on the mound for the Bombers. It is his first start since he impersonated a tee during six innings in three April outings, followed by trips to the disabled list and the bullpen. The timing of the move was a bit of a surprise, although Joe Girardi's explanation makes sense.

Wang needs to get in the rotation now or the team would risk a situation where his arm wasn't strong enough to start when it was necessary. He's only pitched eight innings in the two weeks he's been back with the team, and the uncertain nature of his long relief role made it hard to get him regular work.

If Wang flashes his old form, the Yankees may have ended up killing two birds with one move. Phil Hughes, who didn't pitch poorly in the rotation at all, moves into the bullpen where he could wind up playing a pretty big role. The Yankee pen has been both problematic and amorphous in the wake of Brian Bruney's injury, and Hughes could help on both counts. If he's able to find his plus fastball and curve in short outings, it's the kind of mix that could be effective in front of Mariano Rivera.

Even better, Hughes could probably pitch more than one inning at a time, which would help Girardi sidestep the delicate dance he's forced to do with limited ammunition in close games. There's a lot of maybes in there, but Hughes is clearly a better pitcher than anyone among the team's relief corps (those not named Mariano, obviously). He may not prove to be a better reliever, but it is worth trying because we've seen what all the potential call-ups from Scranton can do.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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