TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ First base prospect Nick Johnson was one of three players optioned to Triple-A Columbus by the New York Yankees on Tuesday.

New York also sent five players to their minor-league camp and gave catcher Bobby Hughes his outright release.

Johnson, who might replace Tino Martinez next season, missed all of last season because of a hand injury. He was sidelined this spring by the chicken pox and a jammed shoulder.

Also sent to Columbus were infielder Eric Almonte and pitcher David Lee.

Pitchers Kevin Lovingier, Edison Reynoso and Domingo Jean, catcher Michel Hernandez and outfielder Felix Jose were sent to the minor-league complex.