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Phil Hughes return on the horizon; what role he will serve remains unclear

Phil Hughes starts his rehab assignment Wednesday in new role. He begins pitching out of the bullpen for Triple-A Rochester in effort to get the pitcher healthy.

Phil Hughes will finally start pitching again as he begins a rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday.

What his role will be when he returns to the majors remains unclear.

Twins manager Paul Molitor said he is open to the idea of letting Hughes work his way back via the bullpen, rather than the starting rotation.

“He feels really good in shorter stints," Molitor added. "We’re not totally sure how longer outings will [go], in terms of symptomatically having to deal with some things that put him on the DL in the first place.”

Molitor told the media Hughes will be in a relief role for the minor league team.

Hughes hasn't pitched for the Twins since May 21st, when weakness in his shoulder began to rear its ugly head yet again (much like it did in 2016).

A year ago, after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome that was causing shoulder pain and fatigue and contributing to decreased velocity, Hughes had surgery to remove a rib. He went 1-7 with a 5.95 ERA last season.

Hughes is 4-3 with a 5.74 ERA in nine starts this year. However, whether he will return to the starting rotation or help bolster the Twins bullpen upon completing his rehab assignment, is the question yet to be answered.

“We’ll be open-minded about bringing him back when we feel he’s ready to serve a role," Molitor elaborated. "He could come back in probably a long [relief] role or a starter’s role, depending on how things go.”

Hughes' last stint as a full-time relief pitcher was in 2009 as a member of the New York Yankees. He served as the setup man to Mariano Rivera. The Yankees won the World Series that season.

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