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Extra relievers give Girardi more options

NEW YORK -- No one likely would have blamed Yankees manager Joe Girardi if he had removed Phil Hughes from the rotation at any point this season.

The right-hander has lost a team-high 13 decisions, and his 4.91 ERA ranks last among the team's starting pitchers. He also has just four wins, which is the same number as relievers Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan.

But despite Hughes' struggles -- he's lost 11 of his last 13 decisions and has a 6.46 ERA since the start of August -- the Yankees simply don't have anyone capable of replacing him in the rotation.

The two top options to replace him, Michael Pineda and David Phelps, are injured. Pineda only recently began throwing again after being shut down for most of August with shoulder discomfort, and Girardi said Phelps is only playing catch right now and is not close to returning.

"[Hughes has] struggled this year at times, there's no doubt about it," Girardi said. "You can talk about replacing him, but two of the guys we would have replaced him with are injured -- Phelps and Pineda -- so he's got to get it done."

If he struggles again on Monday against the White Sox, Girardi might need to get some length out of his bullpen. Hughes has lasted fewer than five innings in four of his last six starts, and the Yankees called up four relievers over the past two days, giving them 11 options out of the bullpen.

"I don't think I'll treat it a whole lot different than I have. When you have 17 games in a row, you have to be somewhat careful," Girardi said. "But you can't afford to be too careful. Will I be a little quicker? Yeah, probably. But I don't think you can be too quick, because you can wear your bullpen out."

Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for