Hughes off to strong start in Spring Training

Hughes off to strong start in Spring Training

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Coming off a disappointing season with the Yankees, Phil Hughes will admit that he wanted to get off to a good start in his first spring with the Twins. So far, so good.

The 27-year-old right-hander allowed only one hit and a walk, while striking out two over three scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday, lowering his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.59 through two outings. While it's still extremely early, Hughes is looking for any way to put last year's 4-14 record and 5.19 ERA in New York behind him.

"You never want to struggle at any point. I think coming in after the year I had, to get off on a pretty good note is big," Hughes said. "But again, it's still Spring Training. Once the season starts, that's the biggest thing. It's all part of the process coming into this, get everything I want to get going in the right direction, and I feel like that'll translate once April rolls around."

Hughes threw 38 pitches on Saturday and reported back feeling good about his fastball and curveball, but not so much his changeup. He said he only threw two or three, and none of them were what he was hoping for. It's possible for him to survive without that offspeed pitch, but he said he'll often rely on it during outings where he's pitching without his best stuff.

"It's when I have those games when I really have to scrap together a good start, you'll see the changeup more often than not in those situations. When I maybe don't have my best fastball or my best breaking ball, it's a pitch that I can go to in situations to get some key outs," Hughes said. "Those 15-plus starts where you don't have your best stuff is when you really need those secondary, third pitches. It's necessary. When I'm going really good, I may not use it a whole lot, but those other times I need it."

Hughes said he plans to focus more on that pitch as the spring rolls on and his pitch counts continue to climb.

"Going three innings, sometimes the concentration goes on making a pitch and getting a guy out," Hughes said. "Before you know it, maybe you haven't thrown as many changeups, curveballs, cutters, whatever it is, as you'd like to."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.