TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes resumed playing catch on Sunday, making 25 tosses at a distance of 60 feet, and called it "a positive first step" toward getting back on the mound.
Hughes has been sidelined with a bulging disk in his upper back that he first felt while covering first base in a fielding drill on Feb. 18.
"For the first day, they didn't want me to go crazy, especially in the cold," Hughes said. "25 easy throws and we'll ramp it up from there."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has acknowledged the possibility that Hughes might not be ready to begin the season, and Hughes said that he cannot afford to have any more setbacks this spring.
"I know that I have to get four or five starts, and every day that I'm not throwing or not on the mound is another day that it's harder to get going again," Hughes said.
"I just have to take it slow, but I figure that it's not the worst thing in the world to miss a little bit of time now [rather] than have this be an issue going forward."
Hughes said that he has been receiving heat and massage therapy to treat the back issue, as well as doing a back strengthening and stretching program. Asked to gauge his discomfort on a scale of one to 10, Hughes replied, "Zero. There's nothing in that area anymore."
If Hughes has to stay behind in Florida to open the season, the Yankees figure to have a built-in insurance plan because they can have the loser of the Ivan Nova-David Phelps fifth-starter competition make a spot start for the first turn through the rotation.
Pettitte, Mo progress with simulated game action
TAMPA, Fla. -- It is never an enjoyable task to dig into a batter's box on a 45-degree morning. Having to take those swings against Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera makes it even more of a chore.
The elder statesmen of the Yankees' pitching staff were in fine form throwing simulated games on Sunday outside George M. Steinbrenner Field, providing uncomfortable at-bats for Yanks hitters Matt Diaz and Francisco Arcia.
At one point, after Rivera shattered his bat with a trademark cutter, Diaz jokingly glared toward the mound and shouted, "How do you throw that thing?"
Working in front of pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Rivera threw 21 pitches in his second simulated game of the spring. Pettitte fired 34 pitches over two simulated innings, his first time facing hitters this spring.
"I really have a good idea what I need, especially throwing today," Pettitte said. "Everything's right there, so for me, it's just getting the [bullpen sessions] and repetition and keeping the feel of it, and hopefully being able to carry it right into the game."
Pettitte said that he expects to throw one more simulated game before logging a Spring Training start.
"Whatever it's going to be, it's going to be plenty good for me," Pettitte said. "It's just a matter of building my stamina up now. I feel good."
Rivera said after the session, which included freezing an impressed Arcia looking at a called third strike, that he believes his next outing could come in a Grapefruit League game.
"I think we are ready to do that," Rivera said, though he will wait for manager Joe Girardi to make the final decision.
After fighting back from last May's season-ending knee injury, Rivera said he is not getting too excited about pitching in games yet.
"I'm waiting for 10 months, I can wait another few days," Rivera said. "I just wait patiently. It will be exciting when I'm there, but I've been waiting for a long time, so no rush."
Girardi: Granderson to play center upon return
TAMPA, Fla. -- When Curtis Granderson returns to the Yankees' outfield, he will do so as the center fielder, manager Joe Girardi confirmed on Sunday.
Girardi told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla., that he has decided to abandon the experiment of playing Granderson in left field with Brett Gardner moving to center field. Granderson is sidelined until May with a fractured right forearm.
"We don't really have the chance to work on it," Girardi said. "It's just something that I've thought about. I don't know how many games he would have in his rehab coming back, and that's a concern for me. So I want him to be comfortable wherever he's at, because his bat's real important to us."
Girardi added that if the Yankees take outfield prospect Melky Mesa on the roster to begin the season, he would play Mesa in center field and have Gardner in left field.
"Hypothetically, if Mesa's the guy that goes, he's played mostly center field," Girardi said. "So Gardy would have to move to left in that situation."
The Yankees are also considering Zoilo Almonte, Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera and Ronnier Mustelier among their choices to fill in for Granderson in April. If those players were in the lineup, Gardner would have to play center field with Ichiro Suzuki in right field.
"Until I sort out what we have, it's going to be kind of difficult to determine how we do it," Girardi said.
Logan expects to return to mound this week
TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees left-hander Boone Logan said that a dye contrast MRI showed only inflammation in his left elbow and he plans to be back on the mound this week.
Logan said that he had been having "a little annoying feeling" in his left elbow, and while it didn't seem to be affecting his throwing, the reliever wanted to get rid of it before the season starts.
"I wanted to know what was going on, because it wasn't going away," Hughes said. "My strength's good, everything's good. My arm wants to go, it wants to throw, and it's just kind of one of those little annoying feelings. I'm tired of feeling it. If I keep going and it doesn't go away, it would make for a long year."
Logan, who tied for the Major League lead with 80 appearances last season, said that he doesn't expect this to be a serious setback. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the team tried to handle Logan's workload with care last year.
"I know he had a number of appearances, but he didn't have like 90 innings (55 1/3)," Girardi said. "We were pretty careful about when we didn't get him up ... but you're always concerned when a guy comes up a little sore, no matter who it is."
• The Yankees will have their first off-day of the spring on Monday, but there will be action at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Robinson Cano and the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic squad will hold an on-field workout at the Yankees' spring home.
• Yankees outfielder Slade Heathcott could be sidelined for about a week after being diagnosed with a sprained right thumb, according to Girardi. The injury is on Heathcott's glove hand, but it could affect him swinging the bat.