So, does Phil Hughes still go to the bullpen?

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Yesterday it was speculated that last night would be Phil Hughes’ last start and that, when the Yankees get off this six-man rotation thing, he’d be the odd man out, bullpen-bound.

Now what happens?

As we noted in the recaps, Hughes had a fine game.  He shut out the White Sox over six innings, needing only 65 pitches, 48 of which were strikes.  He hit 95 on the gun in the first inning and then settled into a 91-94 groove — averaging 92.5 — which is where he was during his effective 2010 season.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that Paul Konerko wasn’t in the White Sox’ lineup and, overall, the Sox have not been great on offense for the past week or so. Or, to be honest, for the whole year, really. They’re near the bottom in runs per game in the AL despite playing in a hitter friendly park.

Does he get another turn?  Or does Joe Girardi take that first inning heat and decide that it’s highest and best use for the remainder of the year is for short relief appearances?

This is why managing is harder than we tend to think it is.

Masahiro Tanaka to throw off a mound this weekend

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Earlier this month Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka strained both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game against the Mets and was sent to the 10-day DL. Today it was announced that the beginning of the end of most DL stints for pitchers — throwing off of a mound — is in Tanaka’s immediate future.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday, which will be his first real (well, fake real) pitching action since the June 9th injury. Assuming the session goes well, Tanaka is expected to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation sometime in early-to-mid July. With the All-Star break coming the week of July 16, it would not be hard to imagine the Yankees giving him a few extra days to get right.

Tanaka is 7-2 with a 4.58 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 73/19 in 72.2 innings on the season.