Phil Hughes was encouraged by his first full bullpen session since being sidelined because of a bulging disk in his upper back early in camp. "Today was a big step," Hughes said after throwing 26 pain-free pitches. Other than having a "terrible slider," Hughes was pleased that he was able to let it go without thinking of his back issue.

"It wasn’t like he was holding back or anything," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. Next, Hughes is scheduled to pitch a live batting practice session on Thursday. After that, he could pitch in a simulated game or in a Grapefruit League game.

Hughes doesn’t have to make his first start of the season until April 7, with ace CC Sabathia able to make two turns because of an off date in the schedule. Rothschild backed that idea, though Hughes will be monitored closely in the coming days.

"He came down early and was throwing really well. He did some good things this winter delivery-wise. I liked what I was seeing and I was hoping to see him in games," said Rothschild, adding that it’s tough to assume Hughes could instantly regain that form. "But I don’t think he’ll be that far off."