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Hughes hit by 1-hopper, appears to be unhurt

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes appeared to escape without injury when he was hit in the lower back by a one-hop comebacker in a simulated game.

Hughes was struck Monday in his first simulated game since he was sidelined last month by a bulging disk in his upper back.

``Thank God it didn't have much of an affect,'' Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said.

Hughes, expected to pitch in a minor league exhibition game Friday or Saturday, said he was fine.

``I came out of it healthy, and I feel good,'' Hughes said.

Injured Feb. 18 during a defensive drill, Hughes went 16-13 with 4.23 ERA in 32 starts for the Yankees last season. The team has not ruled out the right-hander missing his first turn during the regular season.

``Once they feel like I'm ready and my pitch count is up, then we'll see where we're at,'' Hughes said. ``It's kind of early to predict exactly where I'll be..''

Hughes faced 10 batters, throwing 24 of 41 pitches for strikes.

``I thought he was better the second inning,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ``He took it real serious. The worst case scenario you miss one start. Let's just make sure that he's ready. Everything right now is going great, and I just want it to stay that way.''

Left-hander Andy Pettitte and closer Mariano Rivera pitched in minor league games Monday, which was an off day for the Yankees.

Pettitte gave up two runs, eight hits and struck out seven over six innings against Toronto's Class A minor leaguers. He threw 79 pitches, including 61 strikes.

``Just a work in progress,'' Pettitte said. ``I was able to get my pitch count up. Feel good. Got through it. Feel healthy.''

Rivera also faced Class A Blue Jays' players in separate game, striking out four in two innings. One batter reach base on an error.

``I think he made the team,'' Girardi said with a smile. ``He looked good. You could see his ball cutting.''

NOTES: Reliever Cody Eppley threw 20 pitches over one inning in the simulated game. ... Francisco Cervelli caught Pettitte and had three hits, including a pair of doubles.

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