NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – As Derek Jeter closes in on a milestone, Phil Hughes is set to return to the mound for the Yankees.
If he’s in the lineup, Jeter could possibly etch his name in baseball history Wednesday night when Hughes and the Yankees conclude their road set with the Cleveland Indians.
In his second game since missing three weeks with a calf injury, Jeter went 2 for 6 in a 9-2 win Tuesday. New York’s captain is four hits shy of becoming the 28th major leaguer – and first Yankee – to reach 3,000 but could get the day off in the finale.
“I want to talk to him, think about it and I’ll go from there,” manager Joe Girardi said. “As I’ve said, my concern is us winning ballgames and him being healthy.”
For the 37-year-old Jeter, who had four-hit games April 24 and May 8, the decision is easy.
“I want to play,” he said.
Curtis Granderson homered twice and had three RBIs as the Yankees (51-33) evened the series between these first-place clubs.
Though Jeter’s pursuit of 3,000 is getting all the headlines, Granderson has homered three times in the series and is the fifth Yankee in the past 50 years to hit at least 25 before the All-Star break. He’s hit .462 with five homers and eight RBIs versus Cleveland in 2011.
Hughes (0-1, 13.94 ERA) hopes to pitch better than he did before going on the disabled list April 15 with arm fatigue. The right-hander allowed at least five runs in each of his three starts.
“I know my stuff is there, I just have to execute pitches,” said Hughes. “I know if I do that, I’ll be fine. I’m not going out there with any wonder or curiosity or doubt.”
He went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA and struck out 18 over three starts at Double-A Trenton.
“I felt like I was ready, so let’s try it,” Hughes said. “I feel a lot better. There’s not much more I could do on rehab.”
Hughes has done that while going 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts versus Cleveland, which hopes Justin Masterson (6-6, 2.85) can build on his first victory since April 26.
After going 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his first seven starts, Masterson went 0-6 with a 3.68 ERA over his next nine before giving up a run and four hits in eight innings of an 8-2 win at Cincinnati on Friday.
The Indians had totaled 16 runs in his previous nine starts.
Despite the lack of support, Masterson is satisfied he’s been able to keep his team in games.
“The way it’s been going lately on my part, I’m pretty happy with it,” said Masterson, who has a 1.85 ERA over his last five outings. “You can’t let the score dictate how you pitch, but it’s nice to see those runs on the board.”
Masterson is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts versus New York and likely would favor a Yankee lineup without Jeter, who is a .417 hitter (5 for 12) against him.
While Jeter’s status is uncertain, New York hopes to have closer Mariano Rivera back after a sore triceps muscle prevented him from being available the last two games. He has 21 saves and a 1.91 ERA in 35 games this season.
The Indians (45-39) could be without All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is day to day with a sprained right ankle suffered Tuesday.
“We’ll see how he shows up (Wednesday),” manager Manny Acta said. “It’s nothing serious. He tried to grind through it.”
Cabrera, batting .292 with a career-high 14 homers and 49 RBIs, has hit .304 versus New York in 2011.
How will Hughes fare in his return? Make your prediction below…
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