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BAL@NYY: Hughes surrenders five runs in 4 1/3 innings

When the Yankees broke Spring Training, Phil Hughes was thought to be a lynchpin in an otherwise questionable rotation behind CC Sabathia. Three months later, New York's starting staff has exceeded expectations, while Hughes has been limited to three unimpressive starts in which he allowed 16 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings and struggled to keep his fastball above 90 mph.

On Wednesday, Hughes -- who won 18 games and earned an All-Star spot in 2010 -- will make his return from a "dead arm" and right shoulder inflammation, beginning his work to reclaim a spot in the front half of the Yankees' rotation. The right-hander, who replaces the successful Ivan Nova in the rotation, is expected to throw up to 100 pitches.

"It should be exciting," said Hughes, who had a 1.93 ERA in three Minor League rehab starts spanning 14 innings. "I'm happy to have this opportunity. I was hoping I didn't need too many starts down in the Minor Leagues.

"I'm excited to be back, and hopefully tomorrow goes really well."

Hughes didn't initially complain about any pain in his arm despite velocity that was down noticeably from last season. However, after being shut down and working his way back, he acknowledged he now feels a significant improvement from how he felt in April.

"The difference is like night and day," Hughes said. "The way the ball is coming out of my hand now, I'm actually getting some swings and misses. I don't exactly know what went wrong, but I know something was wrong. ... I'm just happy to have my stuff back."

Likewise, manager Joe Girardi is happy to have his right-hander back. Yet, though positive reports came out of Hughes' rehab starts, the Yankees' skipper will maintain a close watch during Wednesday's start.

"You've got to see how his stuff is, inning by inning," Girardi said. "One thing we talked about a little bit was stamina and how his stamina is, because I think the intensity gets turned up here."

However, simply getting Hughes back, especially before the All-Star break, is a positive step when initial reports looked comparatively grim.

"I don't know if I ever got to that point [of thinking he wouldn't return], but there was some concern," Girardi added. "I always thought we'd get him back, but I just didn't really have a complete timetable for it."

Meanwhile, Indians starter Justin Masterson is looking to build off his last start, which was his first victory since April 26. Masterson began the season 5-0 but was somewhat a victim of poor run support in dropping six straight decisions over his next 11 starts before limiting the Reds to one earned run over eight innings on Friday.

The Indians scored only 22 runs in those 11 games, going 3-8. However, the lineup supported Masterson against Cincinnati by banging out eight runs, which was plenty for Masterson.

"My job is to go out there and keep them from scoring," said Masterson after his previous outing. "You can only control your effort. That doesn't make me satisfied, by any means, when you're not getting victories as a team when you're pitching.

"The way things have been going lately, I've been pretty happy with it. I can't really think about [run support]. You can't really let the score dictate how you pitch, but it was nice to see that on the board."

Yankees: History for Jeter not far away
• With two hits -- a first-inning infield single and a second-inning two-run double -- in Tuesday's 9-2 win, Derek Jeter pulled to within four hits of 3,000 for his career. Lifetime against Masterson, the captain is 5-for-12 (.417) with three RBIs.

• This year's Midsummer Classic marks the first time since 1987 that the Yankees boast four starters (Alex Rodriguez, Jeter, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson). Twenty-four years ago, Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield earned starting honors.

• It is the first time since 2004 (Jason Giambi, Jeter, Rodriguez) that the Yankees have three infielders selected as All-Star starters, and the first second baseman, shortstop and third baseman combination since Randolph, Bucky Dent and Graig Nettles were selected to the 1980 All-Star Game.

• Rodriguez leads all active players with 14 Midsummer Classic selections.

Indians: Bullpen brawn
• The Indians' bullpen enters Wednesday with four relievers who rank in the top 15 in ERA this season. Joe Smith (0.92) ranks first, followed by Rafael Perez (1.60), Vinnie Pestano (1.72) and closer Chris Perez (2.30). The quartet has collectively allowed just eight earned runs in its last 50 2/3 innings (1.42 ERA). Smith has not allowed a run since he surrendered two earned runs on May 8.

Worth noting
• Granderson has five more games to set a new franchise record for most runs scored before the All-Star break. With 77 runs, he's currently trailing Henderson's club record of 83 in 1986 and Rodriguez's 79 (2007), and he's tied with Henderson's first half from '85.

• The Indians are the only team in the Majors not to start a left-handed pitcher this season.

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