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Hochevar keeps the Angels' bats in check

Thus far, life without Mariano Rivera has offered the Yankees a win and a loss, but not a save opportunity for the club, which lost its Hall of Fame-bound closer to an ACL tear Thursday.

That chance may come Sunday as the Yanks look to salvage a split of their four-game set in Kansas City when they send righty Phil Hughes to the mound. Hughes will face the Royals' Luke Hochevar in a battle of pitchers whose combined ERAs approach 15.

Hochevar has given up 12 runs in the first inning alone in his two losses. He is coming off a horrendous outing against Detroit that saw him allow nine runs and 12 hits in four innings.

"I'd say more than anything, I just didn't execute quality pitches, and that's what happens when you don't execute," Hochevar said after his last start. "Even when I did execute, they squared them up, and I was just so poor all around."

In five starts this season, Hochevar is 2-2 with a 7.36 ERA, while Hughes has posted a 7.48 mark with a 1-4 record. Both are hoping to bring those high numbers down on Sunday.

Hughes has struggled with efficiency, and he says that will be the key to his outing Sunday. He hit 95 mph on the radar gun his last time out and noted he'll have to keep his pitches-per-inning ratio down to maintain that.

"It's all just a matter of keeping my energy and getting some quick innings to be able to do that," Hughes said. "It's something that I'd like to do, maintain velocity throughout the start, but to do that I have to get some efficient outs and make sure I'm not throwing 25- or 30-pitch innings."

There has been some talk about the Yankees moving Hughes to the bullpen with the injury to Rivera and the forthcoming return of Andy Pettitte. Hughes played a vital role out of the 'pen in the Yankees' 2009 championship run, but has reiterated he'd prefer to start.

Nonetheless, he said he'll go where he's needed.

"I don't worry about that stuff," Hughes said. "I let the organization make decisions on those sorts of things. I just go out and pitch and do whatever I'm told. That's pretty much it."

The Yankees have been in search of production from the heart of their order recently, and they got it on Friday to propel them to their lone win of the series. But the 3-4-5 hitters combined to go 1-for-11 on Saturday in a 5-1 loss.

Yankees: Swisher on the mend
• There's an outside chance right fielder Nick Swisher will return to the Yankees' lineup on Sunday for the first time since April 29. Swisher has been nursing a tight left hamstring and went through a complete workout Saturday.

Manager Joe Girardi called the possibility of playing Swisher, "something we'll have to think about, talk to the doctors and trainers and see what they think."

Swisher is hitting .284 with six homers, 23 RBIs and a .617 slugging percentage.

• Derek Jeter had the chance to overtake Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp for the Major League batting average lead, but he went 0-for-4 Saturday, dropping him to .390. Kemp is hitting .392.

• Reliever David Robertson has struck out his last eight batters faced.

Royals: Coleman to Triple-A
• The Royals optioned righty Louis Coleman to Triple-A Omaha on Saturday when they activated Felipe Paulino to start. Coleman struggled a bit in his seven outings this season, but he did toss 1 2/3 scoreless innings in a loss Friday.

"Coleman has found something in his delivery, and [Friday] was the best he's thrown since he's been here," manager Ned Yost said. "But he's more of a situational right-handed pitcher. By that, I mean we like him when they bunch up righties. His command has got to be better to face lefties, and right now, it's not polished enough to get lefties out."

• The Kansas City bullpen has allowed just nine earned runs in its last 43 2/3 innings pitched for a 1.85 ERA during that stretch.

• Jeff Francoeur threw out Curtis Granderson in the sixth inning of Saturday's game for his 102nd outfield assist since 2005. That's easily the tops in baseball.

Worth noting
• In eight plate appearances against Hughes, Royals first baseman Billy Butler has three hits -- two for extra bases -- and a walk.

• Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas is hitting .318 with a homer and three RBIs in games against the Yankees.

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