For better and worse, Brian Cashman is generally a candid speaker when he’s in a relaxed environment. He puts up his shields when he has to, but when there’s an easy back and forth, he’s more willing than most general managers to go along with it and speak his mind.
That’s what he did today, and it became a story that Cashman never expected until his phone started ringing off the hook with reporters asking about Derek Jeter moving to the outfield. Step-by-step, here’s how Cashman described this morning’s Jeter discussion at a WFAN breakfast/Q&A.
1. A fan asked whether Jeter would remain at shortstop. Cashman said right now there are no plans to move him away from the position.
2. Mike Francesa, serving a kind of host for the event, brought up his idea that Jeter could eventually move to third base and Alex Rodriguez could move to designated hitter.
3. Cashman, rolling with Francesa’s hypothetical, said that he prefers more power in the corners and said that — given Jeter’s athleticism and offensive style — a move to the outfield would be more likely.
That was the back-and-forth. Cashman was willing to go along with the hypothetical situation of Jeter leaving the shortstop position, and guessed that a move to the outfield would be more likely than a move to third base. It’s interesting and it’s newsworthy, but there’s no indication that the Yankees are planning or preparing for such a change.
“It wasn’t a declaration of any kind,” Cashman said.
To me, the more interesting news coming out of Cashman’s breakfast was his acknowledgment that Joba Chamberlain has not been the same since injuring his shoulder in Texas back in 2008. I don’t remember the Yankees acknowledging the impact of that injury, but Cashman said he’s said all of this in the past.
“That’s not the first time,” Cashman said. “… (Chamberlain) hasn’t been since that episode in Texas. I still think he has a chance to be an exceptional pitcher. It’s just not the same physicality he had prior to that.”
In particular, Cashman pointed out the diminished velocity, which used to reach into the high 90s whether Chamberlain was working as a starter or as a reliever. The velocity was higher as a reliever, certainly, but it was still up there as a starter, much more so than it has been since the injury.
“I don’t think that equipment necessarily exists now,” Cashman said.
As Rob Neyer pointed out on ESPN, it could be that Chamberlain is just another in a long line of pitchers who couldn’t quite hold up to throwing 100 pitches every five days. Chamberlain had been pitching professionally less than two years when that injury occurred, and he’s currently been in the organization only four years. It’s not especially unusual to discover things like this in a pitcher’s first four years in organized ball. The difference for Chamberlain is that the discovery came at the big league level, in the spotlight of Yankee Stadium.
• The open competition at catcher is for the backup job, not the starting job. “Russell Martin is our everyday guy,” Cashman said.
• The Yankees obviously could still use a starter, and there are still some risk-reward starters on the free agent market. The fact the Yankees have not yet signed any of them, Cashman said, does not mean they won’t eventually sign one of them. “I wouldn’t say I’m out,” Cashman said.
• When the Andruw Jones signing becomes official, the Yankees will have their fourth outfielder. They already have internal candidates for the utility infield role and the backup catcher role. That leaves one bench job open, either for an in-house candidate or a free agent. “We’re never finished,” Cashman said. “We’re always open to doing things.”
Associated Press photos