FORT MYERS, FLA. – Phil Hughes gave up one run Thursday during the Twins' 2-1 loss to the Yankees at Hammond Stadium, then found out later he'd made the team as a long reliever.
Hughes needed 87 pitches to get through 4 ⅔ innings and retired the side in order only once. He needed 20 pitches to get out of the first inning alone.
He seemed to get sharper as the game went along, painting the outside corner with several fastballs at the knees.
"My fastball command was pretty good," Hughes said. "My curveball and my slider were pretty good secondary pitches [Thursday]. That's kind of been the story of my spring, I've been really happy with my breaking stuff. I still need to get my changeup going into that mix. I'd like to have four solid pitches I can lean on at any time. It's a really big help."
The Yankees' only damage off Hughes was Billy McKinney's home run.
In addition to his bullpen duties, Hughes will be the fifth starter, at least until Ervin Santana is ready to return to the rotation following surgery on his middle finger, which should be sometime in mid-May. A fifth starter won't be needed until mid-April.
Hughes and Lance Lynn will stay behind in Florida next week and get minor league starts while the team heads to Baltimore for Thursday's opener.
Twins manager Paul Molitor felt Hughes took steps in the right direction Thursday.
"He used all his stuff. I thought he executed well," Molitor said. "I thought he minimized the damage. His pitch count ran up on him a little bit, but it was a good, progressive day for him."
The Twins tied the game in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Ehire Adrianza but should have done more damage after loading the bases with no outs.
Fernando Rodney got two quick outs in the sixth inning — hitting 96 mph on the radar gun with his fastball — before giving up a double to Tyler Austin and a tiebreaking RBI single to Austin Romine.
La VELLE E. NEAL III