Phil Hughes was on track to begin the 2013 season getting fully healthy in the Minors. Instead, he'll be activated from the 15-day disabled list just in time to start Saturday's game against the Tigers at Comerica Park.
After giving up eight runs to the Tigers on Friday afternoon, the Yankees have yielded at least seven runs in three of their first four games this season. The starting pitchers (CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova) have taken all three losses.
A strong start from Hughes could ease some anxious fans.
Hughes, who has been dealing with a bulging disk in his back this spring, tossed seven innings for the Class A Tampa Yankees on Monday and reported feeling good.
His arrival allows David Phelps, who was originally in line to start Saturday, to shift back to the bullpen, where the Yankees have been taxed in the opening week. Shawn Kelley was needed for 43 pitches in Friday's 8-3 loss to Detroit and long reliever Adam Warren hurled 86 pitches in a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday.
The Tigers, who used a pair of home runs from Prince Fielder on their way to an 8-3 win to open their home portion of the 2013 schedule on Friday, will turn to Max Scherzer.
The 28-year-old right-hander is coming off his best season yet. Scherzer led the American League with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings as he fanned 231 batters in 187 2/3 innings. He finished 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA. Former Major Leaguer and current FOX broadcaster Tim McCarver told the Detroit Free Press he thinks Scherzer will win the American League Cy Young Award this year.
Named the fifth starter because he was behind in his throwing program this spring, Scherzer does not expect to have a limited pitch count. He said he feels as good as he did last year at this time.
"That was the goal, to keep up the same program," Scherzer said. "I feel like my offspeed pitches are where I want them to be."
The Yankees have scored just 13 runs in four games.
Yankees: Another one goes down
Yet another Yankees batter fell victim to injury on Friday, when Eduardo Nunez was struck in the right arm by a Doug Fister pitch and left the game immediately.
Nunez was diagnosed with a bruised right bicep and pronounced day to day. He grimaced upon contact and needed help walking off the field.
Jayson Nix, who played 15 games at shortstop in 2012, took his place and went 0-for-2. Nunez is 4-for-11 (.364) this season.
Tigers: Bullpen shaping up
The Tigers signed former closer Jose Valverde to a Minor League contract Thursday afternoon. Manager Jim Leyland said it was "no-brainer." Valverde has been on a throwing program in the Dominican Republic, but hasn't been throwing to live hitters. After he does that a few times, he could join Triple-A Toledo.
While Phil Coke took a ninth-inning loss to the Twins on Wednesday, Leyland opted to let fellow lefty Drew Smyly finish an 8-3 win over the Yankees on Friday.
Smyly, who fought a losing battle for the fifth-starter job in Spring Training, relieved Doug Fister in the sixth and pitched four perfect innings, striking out five, to earn the save. Smyly had allowed two earned runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Twins on Opening Day.
• While there was no save situation for the Yankees in Friday's loss, Girardi said he wouldn't hesitate in using Mariano Rivera the same way he would if Rivera hadn't hurt his knee last year. Girardi said the knee is not a concern.
• Robinson Cano batted second on Friday, and Girardi said it could be a consistent place for Cano until some of the injured Yankees hitters start to return. Cano, who had hit .269 in 308 career at-bats out of the two-hole (his worst average by batting order position), went 1-for-4 Friday.
• Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson has singled in his first at-bat in each of the first four games. Jackson is hitting .375.
• Designated hitter Victor Martinez went 0-for-3 Friday and has two hits in 14 at-bats this season after missing most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.