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Long: “You start to maybe think a little bit differently”

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[2]The Yankees division lead disappeared last night, and it disappeared — predictably — in the fog of another disappointing night from the offense.

“You’ve got a 10-game lead and it’s down to zero,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “There’s some added pressure and guys are probably trying to do too much. We’ve got to come out of it, and we’ve got to start playing better baseball, not just offensively, all together. We’ll just stay at it and hopefully guys can relax and start doing what they’re capable of doing. And to do that, I think the biggest thing is just to trust their ability.”

For about six minutes in the Yankees clubhouse, Long spoke about the state of the team and the need to do something differently going forward. Here’s Long, addressing a group of reporters:

Any indication that they’re going to turn it around soon?
“There’s some guys that have been there and done that. You’ve got to trust the guys in the room. It’s our job as coaches to make sure that they understand that. Stay at them, and keep grinding, and I think just making sure that they understand the importance of sometimes it’s not about getting a pitch and hitting it over the fence. It’s about grinding out an at-bat, maybe walking, trusting your teammates. All that stuff comes into play, and right now we need it more than ever.”

Have you seen guys pressing and going outside of their zone?
“Not so much out of their zone. Today our chases, there weren’t very many. We had nine off Cobb. That’s not very many. That’s not an overabundance of chases. Some of it has to do with some pitching and some quality pitches, but a lot of it has to do with, we’ve got to get back to the basics. We’ve got start doing some things. We might start having some guys bunt that you don’t normally see bunt. That might have to be the case right now, until we get it going. Maybe we take a guy like Swisher in the third inning today, when it’s first and second with nobody out, maybe he bunts. We’re going to talk about that and we’re going to address some of those things, and we’ll see if we can’t turn it around.”

Does Alex Rodriguez look rusty?
“Any time you’re out for a length of time it takes awhile to get going. Today he played third and he’s on the turf, you know. He’s exhausted after a day like today. You can’t prepare for game action by just taking groundballs and doing all the stuff that he’s done. It’s going to take him some time to get back into it. His at-bats are getting better. We talked about it today. He seemed to be better with two strikes, his approach was much better. He wasn’t as big. I thought he played good at third; he got seven or eight balls. He played a good game, so he’s getting back into the mix. And certainly we’re going to need him.”

Is this team really designed to bunt?
“Listen, in 2009 we won the championship because Nick Swisher bunted. Alex Rodriguez has bunted twice this year. He’s got 644 home runs. So everybody should be capable of doing it. And the people who are not all in, then something’s wrong. At this point, when you’re not scoring runs, you’ve got to try something. We’ll talk about it. Maybe it goes up to a point right now where it’s like 80 percent we’re bunting. And then it goes down to maybe 50 percent because we’re starting to swing the bats better. And if we struggle again, those are the times to do those things. There are some things we can do besides sit around and wait for a big home run.”

Would bunting be a sign of desperation?
“It’s not desperation, it’s about playing baseball. In playoff baseball, Justin Verlander’s out there and it’s first and second, what are you going do? That’s the way it is. You have to do these things. I think we need to get more in that mode right now, and hopefully that turns it around.”

Does this feel like playoff baseball?
“Oh yeah. We’re right in the thick of this thing. These are important times right now. We got to get guys in this room to sell out and to buy into trusting everybody on the team, from guys on the bench to our big horses who hit 3 and 4. We got to come together, and we got to do it now.”

Is there a lack of trust?
“Nah, it’s not that. Listen, we were so good for so long at banging the ball out of the park, and you guys know we were hitting home runs at a pace that, it was great, and we were real good at it. And when that starts to go the other way, you know — and this isn’t going to be the case all the time, but — that’s when you start to maybe think a little bit differently and maybe have a different approach, so we’ll try some of those things. You guys might see some of that come here sooner than later, and we’ll see if that can’t get us going.”

Associated Press photos