- Associated Press - Sunday, September 26, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Insisting this wasn’t a panic move in the midst of a late-season slump, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi changed course again and scheduled Phil Hughes to start against Boston in the finale of their weekend series.

Hughes was set to replace Dustin Moseley on Sunday night as the Yankees tried to avoid a three-game sweep and gain ground on the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays.

“My job is to make decisions with the information that I have,” Girardi said. “Then people are going to look at it the way they want to. We’ve been trying to win games, trying to win our division and trying to win home-field advantage. We haven’t stopped doing that.”

Hughes originally was slated to pitch Sunday night, then was pushed back to Wednesday in Toronto, with the Yankees saying the move was part of their plan to limit the right-hander’s innings in his first full season as a major league starter.

But after losing the first two games of their series with the Red Sox, the Yankees announced about 5 hours before the scheduled first pitch that they were switching back to Hughes, who is 17-8 with a 4.31 ERA in 169 1-3 innings.

Moseley, 4-3 with a 4.94 ERA, figured a change was likely when he was sent to the bullpen during the third inning of Saturday’s 7-3 loss, and he was told of the change after the game.

“If we win that ballgame, I’ll probably start,” he said.

Moseley was disappointed by the decision.

“But I’m a realist. I see what’s going on,” he said. “You’ve got to go with your guys.”

Girardi said there was a slight worry the switch would send a negative message to his players.

“Yes, I’m a little bit concerned how it’s perceived in there, not necessarily anywhere else,” he said, “but I think they know what we’re trying to do.”

New York had lost four straight going into Sunday, keeping its magic number at three for clinching a postseason berth. The defending World Series champions began the day 1 1/2 games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East and 5 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the wild-card race. The Rays lost to Seattle 6-2 on Sunday.

“Look, we’ve been going at it hard here,” Girardi said. “Sometimes it’s hard when your starters don’t give you any distance. All of a sudden, you’re using your bullpen a little bit different that day. When you do it four days in a row, you get a little messed up.”

Entering Sunday, New York had seven games remaining, while Boston had eight. The teams finish the regular season with three games against each other at Fenway Park next weekend.

Girardi said the Yankees remain on turn with their rotation, with A.J. Burnett slated to start Monday night’s series opener at Toronto and CC Sabathia following. But if New York clinches a postseason berth, Girardi will think about lining up his starters for the playoffs.