April 4- May 6
Game, off-day, 2 Games, off-day, 3 Games, off-day, 6 Games, off-day, 6 Games, off-day, 9 Games, off-day
May 7- June 7
17 Games, off-day, 13 Games, off-day
June 8- July 15
6 Games, off-day, 9 Games, off-day, 3 Games, off-day, 13 Games, All-Star Break
I'm going to start with the presumption that Hughes will win the fifth spot out of Spring Training. Hughes has a limit on his innings; the 24-year old pitched a career high 86 major league innings last season, but he had pitched 146 minor league innings back in 2006.
Last season, the Yanks let Joba blow by the Verducci "30-inning" Rule. He threw 163 IP last season including the postseason, after 100 IP in 2008. Presumably, he would have been allowed to go farther if he had been effective.
Imagine that they handle Hughes similarly.
To start the season, Joba either goes down to AAA to log innings or he goes into the pen to be a big part of the bridge. My preference is for the bullpen, but I understand the counter argument.
Hughes is the fifth starter for that first month. Like Joba did, he'll average 6 or just under 6 innings per start. He'll have good days and bad day, but he'll pitch 30 innings by his 5th start on May 3rd.
Then the Yanks start that tough stretch of 30 games in 31 days. Assuming everyone is healthy, I'll call-up and/or move Joba to the rotation and use a 6 man rotation for that stretch. The Yanks will need spot starters to get through those games anyways, and a 6 man rotation will make 5 turns with only one off-day and games at Boston, at Minnesota, at Shea, and at Detroit plus hosting the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Mets, the Rays and the Twins. If you're not willing to punt any of those (and I'm not), then use the best starters.
That gets Hughes to 60 innings through June 4th. He gets another 6 starts (roughly 36 innings) before the All-Star break. The wheels fell off Joba once he passed his career MLB mark, and I'm not willing to endure two months of failed starts down the stretch. So after the All-Star break, swap Hughes and Joba. Hughes will average 13-15 innings per month in the pen (assuming Joe G. doesn't forget he's out there like he did for a couple weeks last season). If he gets another 40 innings in the pen, he'll have thrown 136 innings, fifty more than his previous career high.
Meanwhile, if Joba is in the pen and manages similar rates to Hughes, he'll have thrown around 150 innings. If he starts the season at AAA, he'll pitch more innings but not at the major league stress level.
I'm not saying it's a perfect solution, or even that I like it (I think Cash and Co. are banking on one of the 6 starters going down with injury; historically, that's not a bad bet to make). But if everyone stays healthy, it's the only way I see to maintain Hughes and Joba's status as young starting pitchers. This could be the season we talk about one as a starter and one as a reliever, but I think they're both too young for that.