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Notes from Cashman: Still no official comment on Ichiro

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During today’s conference call to discuss the Kevin Youkilis signing, general manager Brian Cashman was not surprisingly asked about Ichiro Suzuki. Also not surprising was his response:

“I’m not in position to say,” Cashman said. “We’re still down an outfielder.”

With Suzuki believed to be on the verge of a two-year deal, though, Cashman did acknowledge that the Yankees are in the market for a right-handed outfielder. And in keeping with the theme of this offseason, he promised to patient in his pursuit.

“I think without question it’s in our best interest if we can find someone we’re comfortable with at some point between now and Opening Day, even if it takes us through spring training,” Cashman said. “Having a right-handed option for our manager would be a significant benefit, yes. (But) I’m not going to all of a sudden do something I’m not comfortable with just because we need that spot.”

A few other topics brought up with Cashman today:

[3]Are the Yankees better now than they were last season?
“I think that it’s too early to say that we’ve gotten better or not. Last year’s team won 95 games and had a ton of injuries. We’re still putting a team together for 2013 so it’s not in a position to do a comparison yet, whatever the 2013 team will look like compared to the 2012 team. It’s too early in the process to have those types of discussions.”

How much financial wiggle room is left?
“Obviously we need to finalize and finish off bringing another outfielder in to play here. The bench is obviously a lot of important players that were key components to us that can come off the bench or play a role in the DH spot. We’ve got more work to do. But a lot of our work, as you know, the players that have been substantial contributors over the last number of years have been January signs. The bottom line is tomorrow is not Opening Day, and so we’ve got a lot of time on the clock here to methodically continue putting a roster together and putting something together that really has a chance to put us back where we were last year, which was winning the division and competing for the title.”

Is the age of the roster a concern?
“I’d say you’re always concerned about it, but I’m not concerned about it when you look at the alternatives. The alternative is, ‘Hey, I could get a younger player that just isn’t very good.’ You could run him out there for 162. It wouldn’t hurt, but he wouldn’t help you.”

Will it be strange to see another team in baseball with a higher payroll?
“It’s not a focus for us. The only thing we usually want to be called is a team that can honestly compete for a world championship. We don’t necessarily equate it to dollars. I know that dollars get put into the conversation, but it’s not into our conversation. You don’t get a trophy for having the highest payroll.”

Do you have indications that Youkilis can bounce back next season?
“We have our internal evaluations and assessments, both from a scouting perspective as well as a data collection and evaluation. He is by far the best opportunity on the board, so we feel comfortable. As long as he stays healthy, he’s going to contribute in a big way about how he approaches the game and the success he can have while on the field. I’m just very comfortable with him and know I can run him out there on a daily basis at third.”

Associated Press photos