When the Yankees put Phil Hughes on the disabled list, they technically labeled the injury as “right shoulder inflammation,” but until today, there was no indication that the inflammation was a serious concern. Joe Girardi always referred to it as a dead arm issue, and Hughes himself said time and again that he did not know of any traditional injury.
Turns out, the inflammation might have been a bigger problem than the Yankees ever indicated.
The possibility of thoracic outlet syndrome “was a much bigger concern” according to Brian Cashman, but on April 28, the Yankees gave Hughes a cortisone injection. Either because of that that shot, or maybe because of the extended rest, Hughes is now indicating to the Yankees and their doctors that he feels “110 percent” better, according to Cashman. How exactly he feels better, Cashman couldn’t say, but he said he’s far more optimistic today than he was when Hughes left for St. Louis a few days ago.
“It sounds like he’s in a much better mental place, so we’ll see,” Cashman said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything. Ultimately, with where we’re at, the recommendation has been another two weeks of rest and then we’ll get him going. Clearly he’ll have to build his arm strength up again, and that will be that true test if we’re through the woods.”
Cashman guessed that Hughes is six to eight weeks away from rejoining the Yankees rotation. Dr. Ahmad has recommended that Hughes rest for two more weeks before beginning a throwing program. There are no further tests planned.
“Hopefully this is just a bump in the road,” Cashman said.
• Highlight of my day at Comerica: Girardi was asked whether Mariano Rivera would be available today. “He was a little upset when we said he was off duty yesterday,” Girardi said. “So I think he’d probably want to strangle me if I told him he was off today.”
At that point, someone noticed Rivera was stretching right in front of us and suggested Girardi tell him — as a joke — that he would not pitch tonight. Girardi stood up, yelled “Hey Mo” and gave him a thumbs up.
Then Girardi slowly turned it to a thumbs down, indicating Rivera was down for tonight’s game. The look on Rivera’s face was positively murderous. I mean it. One of the kindest, classiest men in all of baseball, and Rivera looked like he would rip Girardi’s face off.
So, yeah, Rivera’s available tonight.
• Regular day off for Russell Martin. He’ll “probably” get another day off this weekend in Texas.
• Girardi is obviously encouraged by the way Brett Gardner is hitting and reaching base lately, but there are no plans to move him back into the leadoff spot at this time. “We always discuss our lineup,” Girardi said. “We discuss different ideas every day. Is that something that I have a plan to do? No, not really.”
• Francisco Cervelli hasn’t had much time with Freddy Garcia, but Girardi gave Cervelli advance notice that he’d be catching tonight’s game. “I told Cervi to watch his last couple of starts and see what he’s doing so he would have a better understanding,” Girardi said. “He doesn’t have much of a history, but you hope the learning curve would be pretty quick.”
• Victor Martinez is off the Tigers disabled list and batting fifth behind Miguel Cabrera. Does that change the way the Yankees approach Cabrera? “I think you look at the score, the time of the game, the situation,” Girardi said. “You have to remember, you have one guy that’s been down for a while, too, and none of us really know how Victor’s swinging. But we know how Miguel’s swinging.”
• Eduardo Nunez went through extensive fielding drills before tonight’s game. Girardi said those drills were planned for yesterday but the session was rained out.
Associated Press photos
Brian Cashman said it was a “slight positive in that particular testing” that led the Yankees to believe Phil Hughes might have thoracic outlet syndrome. Cashman referenced the show House, and said this is one step to “peel the onion” and find out what’s wrong. If Monday’s visit to St. Louis tells the Yankees that Hughes does not have TOS, then they’ll try to find what’s next.
“This is what we’re focused on at this point,” Cashman said. “We’re hoping it’s not the case. I’ll hope until we hear otherwise that it’s not the case. If it is, it will be taken care of. If it isn’t, we’ll take a sigh of relief and say, ‘Well, that’s good.’”
Dr. Robert William Thompson is being asked to specifically say yes or no to thoracic outlet syndrome. He’s not necessarily being asked to check for anything else. Cashman said he hasn’t looked too far into the recovery for the condition, but he believes a positive diagnosis would be season-ending for Hughes.
“I think it be a long-term thing,” Cashman said. “I’ve heard typically that’s what it is, that a surgery would be involved and I’d suspect it would be the season… It’s not something where it’s, ‘Take some aspirin and shut it down for a week.’”
If Hughes is lost for the year, Cashman said that changes nothing about his current pursuit of additional pitching.
“There’s no starting pitcher to go find,” Cashman said. “Everything we have to deal with is right here in front of us. After the June draft is when you have a chance to go get stuff.”
Here’s Cashman addressing a huge group of reporters in the Yankees clubhouse.
• Cashman on Mark Teixeira’s right shoulder injury: “Right now, my medical team doesn’t seem to be overly alarmed so I won’t be.”
• Joe Girardi said he could, in theory, use Teixeira in the field, but he doesn’t plan to do so. In fact, he hinted that Teixeira might get more than one game off. “The best thing to me is to rest him a couple of days and try to get him healthy,” Girardi said.
• Derek Jeter is getting a regular day off. The Yankees decided on Monday that today would be Jeter’s day to rest. Girardi said Jeter might get another day off during the upcoming road trip. “In the long run I guess it’s beneficial,” Jeter said. “But I always like to play.”
• Jeter’s replacement, Eduardo Nunez, jammed his thumb on his glove hand. He had his left hand lightly wrapped this afternoon, but he said it’s no problem. “I’m good,” Nunez said.
• Girardi on hitting Robinson Cano third: “I think you could hit Robbie anywhere in the order that you want. With him swinging the bat so well, you try to get him as many at-bats as you can.”
• Girardi on using Eric Chavez at first: “I got comfortable with him at first base during spring training, just watching him play the position and feeling like that he could handle it and have no issues with it.”
• Kevin Millwood is starting for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. It will be his final start before his out kicks in on Sunday. Cashman would not comment on his reports about how Millwood has been pitching. “We’ll inform Kevin what our intentions are,” Cashman said. “If we choose not to bring him, he’ll have a decision whether he wants to opt out or not. If we choose to bring him, we’ll bring him.”
• Dave Robertson grew up just a few miles from the tornado destruction in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He said he couldn’t even recognize some of the places that have been shown on television in the past 24 hours or so, and these are places he used to drive by every day. That said, all of his family is OK, and his best friend’s house survived, despite a tornado ripping through his street. As someone who grew up in a tornado-heavy area, I can tell you this stuff is terrifying. Robertson seemed shaken but clearly relieved that he’s so far heard nothing but good news about the people he knows.
Brent Lillibridge LF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Carlos Quentin RF
Paul Konerko 1B
Adam Dunn DH
Alex Rios CF
Ramon Castro C
Gordon Beckham 2B
Brent Morel 3B
Associated Press photos
The same old conversation (one more time) • 02.16.11
I know the Joba Chamberlain starter-vs-reliever debate has gotten old, but I also know plenty of people still have questions about the decision, and both Brian Cashman and Chamberlain talked about it today. Here are a few of their comments about the situation.
On whether there have been mechanical changes since Chamberlain’s shoulder injury:
“He’s always had trouble repeating his delivery. That was prior to the Texas issue, that’s always been an issue for him. I wouldn’t trace any mechanical changes to what took place in Texas.”
On vcelocity changes since the shoulder injury:
“He used to throw 95-plus from pitch one as a starter. He doesn’t do that now. But he can do that out of the bullpen. And that also happens with the evolution of players regardless. Some guys come out of the minor leagues throwing gas, and eventually in their mid 20s start to settle in, and their stuff backs off over time. It could be that too.”
On initially keeping him as a starter after the injury:
“The velocity was down. People were asking questions. Joe would have meetings with him. Is he pacing himself? Is he saving his bullets? Never had those conversations before. If you’re saving your bullets, don’t. You’ve got to empty the tank, right from inning one. He would try, but it just wasn’t there. At some point, you accept it. This is what you see out of the rotation, this is what you see out of the bullpen. They’re radically different. It used to be the same out of the rotation and the bullpen. It played the same. Now when you scout him it’s not. It’s radically different out of the bullpen.”
On whether he’s felt the same since the shoulder injury:
“I’ve never been in the same spot so I’m always trying to figure out what works for me, making the adjustments on the fly. I’ve had to learn to pitch in the big leagues. I’m trying to make adjustments but still trying to get outs. This is the first year where I’ve had the opportunity to look back at the times I’ve been in the bullpen, the times I’ve been a starter, to know the whole year that’s where I’m going to be. I just took bits and pieces that were effective for me from the years before. The shoulder was never an issue, so I was never worried about that, I was never worried about, health-wise, anything on that.”
What does it mean to be built for the bullpen?
“I have no idea. I don’t know what that means. That’s a question you’d have to ask him. Everybody’s perception is different of what they feel. That’s a question for him (Cashman).”
Is there frustration in being assigned this role?
“No. I’m still fighting for a job on this team. Like I said, I don’t care what it is. If they feel like I’m a better fit to help us win in the bullpen, I’m not going to sit here and argue and stomp my feet like a little kid and pout about it. I’ve got the opportunity to win a job and help us have one of the best bullpens in baseball. I’ve got to take that and not worry about what the other stuff is.”
Cashman spoke outside, so the audio is pretty shaky. Here’s Chamberlain, though. He talks about both the bullpen assignment and the weight issue.
Associated Press photos
Pinch hitting: Dan Hanzus • 02.09.11
Our next Pinch Hitter, Dan Hanzus, is a Rockland County native and current “Los Angeleno” who has been writing his Yankees blog, River & Sunset, since 2008. Dan admits that he, “sometimes looks up at the night sky and wonders if Shelley Duncan is gazing at the same star.” My guess is there’s a 50-50 chance.
In an offseason during which Cliff Lee dissed him, ownership undercut him, and Andy Pettitte Brett Favred him, Cashman has remained unflappable, disconnected even. Some in his position would’ve developed a facial tick from the stress by now. Cashman? He dresses up like an elf and shimmies down a building. He serves pints of Guinness in a Corey Haim wig. He makes half-hearted contract offers to Carl Pavano just to see if the internet can explode from snark.
It reminds me of Office Space, when the restless and disgruntled Peter Gibbons decides the way to escape the monotony of his droll life is to revolt against the system that shackles him. He accomplishes this by barely showing up for work, defying his superiors, and occasionally gutting a trout in his cubicle. In the movie, Peter’s blunt insubordination is rewarded with a promotion by corporate lunkheads who mistake his disobedience for leadership.
Could Cashman be banking on the same result?
If Cashman is restless, perhaps it’s understandable. The 43-year-old has been the general manager of the Yankees for 13 years. That’s a long time to be a manager at The Gap, let alone a chief cabinet member for the most successful sports franchise in America. With The Boss gone and the organization in a controlled state of flux, Cashman — consciously or not — may be testing the limits of how entrenched he really is.
The job he’s done in that time continues to be a lightning rod of debate in Yankee Universe. Supporters say he’s a smart, hard-working executive who has earned the respect of colleagues around the game. Detractors believe he was simply along for the ride during the dynasty run, a poor talent evaluator, and was directly responsible for the team’s title drought last decade.
Wherever you stand, most will agree that no GM works under the same level of expectations. The Boss may be dead, but the Steinbrenner Doctrine — anything short of a championship is considered failure — lives on. Yes, Cashman is armed with the golden checkbook, but he also has the smallest margin of error. Call it a wash.
Cashman is entering the final year of his contract. During his 2005 renegotiation, Cashman demanded, and received, the power to restructure the baseball operations. He said that the dueling factions in New York and Tampa needed to disappear, and they did. For a five-year stretch Cashman was El Hombre, every bit as vital to the Yankees enterprise as A-Rod, Jeter, or Sabathia.
That’s what made the Rafael Soriano signing such an eye-opener. For the first time since he threatened to walk in ’05, Cashman was publicly undermined on a key personnel decision. If Hal Steinbrenner has decided to take a more active role, is there room for both men atop the food chain?
It all makes for great theater as the 2011 season unfolds. By this time next year, we’ll likely know the true alpha dog when it comes to the construction of the Yankees.
(Cut to Hank in his shadowy lair, cigarette dangling, bourbon in hand, black cat on lap: “That’s what you think.”)
Associated Press photos
In a good question and answer session with Josh Norris, Brian Cashman once again said the Yankees believe Jesus Montero can catch at the big league level. In fact, Cashman said Montero is already better than some of the catchers in the Majors.
“The minor leagues is (where you) work out your problems,” Cashman said, “and he’s certainly closing the gap. He’s not there yet, but he’s pretty damn close. We believe he’s better than some starting catchers, defensively, in the big leagues right now.”
Check out the full interview over at Josh’s Minor Matters blog. Cashman discussed his drafting strategy, his dedication to building a top-rate scouting department and the value of developing talent.
Swisher: “I don’t want to leave New York” • 01.27.11
Nick Swisher was on the Mike Francesa’s radio show this afternoon, professing his love for the Yankees, the Bleacher Creatures and all things New York.
“I don’t want to leave New York,” Swisher said. “This is the place to be. I love it. I absolutely love it… Meeting my wife, and Kevin Long, and the city of New York just completely resurrected my career.”
Coming off the best season of his career, Swisher has stuck with his offseason routine. We already know that Long has been to California to work with Swisher this winter.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Swisher said. “Continuing to do the same thing. Just trying to keep that same mentality. Really trying to stay consistent with something.”
It’s a nice, quick interview that’s available over on the YES Network website. Swisher talks a lot about his transition to New York, his popularity in New York and his upcoming honor at next week’s Thurman Munson dinner. It’s Swisher, so you know it’s entertaining.
A few other notes and links from today.
• Newsday has a cool photo gallery showing some of the oddities of Brian Cashman’s offseason, everything from the Derek Jeter negotiations to the Rafael Soriano press conference to last night’s bartending experience.
• My good friend Bryan Hoch did a nice job wrapping up last night’s bartending event. “I think I’m keeping (the fans) happier right now tending bar than I am in terms of finding a starting rotation that they can be comfortable with,” Cashman said. “But in time, we’ll do that, I promise.”
• Make sure you check out Buster Olney’s take on what the world of Twitter might have looked like with a George Steinbrenner account. My favorite fictional tweet: Mattingly’s hair has gotten so long that he looks like one of the Beatles — one of their girlfriends, I mean.
• Vladimir Guerrero’s most logical next step might be a one-year deal with the Orioles. As Ken Rosenthal pointed out, there aren’t many teams still looking for a designated hitter.
• The Nationals designated Justin Maxwell for assignment. If the 40-man weren’t full, and the Yankees hadn’t already added Jordan Parraz for outfield depth, I’d suggest Maxwell might be a solid target for the Yankees. He was pretty bad in Washington last year, but Maxwell raked in Triple-A and seemed to be developing into at least a fourth outfielder not too long ago. That said, I’m not sure outfield depth is as much of a concern now as it once was.
• ESPN says that the best unknown high school player in the country is a kid from my hometown (though I went to a different high school). My dad really likes high school basketball, so I’ve actually heard about Otto Porter quite a bit. The last high school kid in that area to create this sort of buzz was probably Tyler Hansbrough.
Good stuff from today’s Michael Kay Show, where Brian Cashman went on the air to address any number of Yankees offseason topics. Of course Cashman talked about this morning’s Derek Jeter comments, but far more time was spent discussing Andy Pettitte’s ongoing retirement decision.
Cashman said he’s been in constant contact with Pettitte, including a phone call today.
“He’s not hurting us, he can only help,” Cashman said. “If not, we will find something to make us better. That’s the job. It’s going to take longer than everyone will like… Because of the available situation in front of us right now, patience is required.”
Given the current free agent market, Cashman said Pettitte’s indecision is not preventing the Yankees from making any sort of move. Cashman has told Pettitte that he doesn’t want the lefty to come back because of pressure from teammates or because of desperation from the fans. He only wants Pettitte back if he’s 100 percent committed to coming back.
“His heart’s got to be in it,” Cashman said.
• If you don’t listen to the entire Cashman interview, at the very least I highly recommend the part around the 20-minute mark when Cashman addressed his comments at the Rafael Soriano press conference. Cashman said he felt the need to acknowledge that he wasn’t onboard with the signing because he had previously told agents, GMs and the media that he didn’t want to spend that much money for a setup man. He needed all of those parties to know that he wasn’t lying. “You have to have credibility,” Cashman said.
• Along the same lines, Cashman said he and Hal Steinbrenner talked before the Soriano press conference, and Steinbrenner knew Cashman planned to make his feelings public. No one was blindsided. “It was not the first time I was overruled,” Cashman said. “And it won’t be the last”
• Cashman also addressed the speculation that he might be unhappy with the Yankees, wanting to prove himself with a smaller market club. “I think all things are pretty good (with the Yankees), and I’m proud to be a part of that,” Cashman said. “So why would I want to jump ship and run somewhere else?”
• Cashman said he’s proud of the fact he’s transitioned the franchise away from being strictly a “checkbook” organization, working to both buy the right pieces and build the right prospects. He called the amateur draft, “the most important day of the year.”
• The final word on the Derek Jeter position change situation: “We have no intention of moving Derek at this point. We’re not talking about moving Derek at this point.”
• Will Jeter stay at shortstop throughout this contract? “It’s hard to say,” Cashman said.
• On Joba Chamberlain: “The stuff as a starter has been watered down. I think we’ve seen enough of a sample.”
• Had the Yankees signed both Cliff Lee and Pettitte, Ivan Nova would likely have opened the season as a long man in the bullpen.
• Cashman indicated that in-house young pitchers could compete for the fifth starter spot in spring training. He specifically mentioned Adam Warren and David Phelps, saying they could be, “Nova or better.”
Associated Press photos
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
Decision makers, relievers and a few links • 01.15.11
Reports of a divided Yankees front office continue to surface in the wake of the Rafael Soriano signing. It might not be a huge issue — baseball people disagree all the time — and it should come as no surprise that the people in charge of the money ultimately have the ability to spend it as they see fit. Brian Cashman might have disagreed, but he reportedly didn’t try to stand in the way when it became clear that ownership wanted to make the move, and Cashman reportedly still has the “full backing” of the Steinbrenners.
Frankly, from the very beginning, the Soriano signing never seemed like a Cashman signing. It goes against his bullpen strategy of the past three years, and it goes against his public comments of the previous week. But in the end, this is not his team, and if ownership wants to make a move, ownership can make a move.
Some other notes and links:
• Of course, good perspective on the Soriano situation comes from Tyler Kepner, who writes that at some point — probably when the signing becomes official — Cashman will have to address the perception of an organizational split, as well as the perception that he wasn’t honest when he said the Yankees would not sacrifice a first-round pick this winter. Kepner also calls the Soriano signing “a clear indictment of (Joba) Chamberlain.”
• Just a few words of my own on Chamberlain: Cashman seems to believe Chamberlain can once again be a reliable and possibly dominant reliever. Cashman seems to like Chamberlain in that spot. It seems to be ownership — and the fan base — that’s not so convinced.
• Speaking of Chamberlain, today the New York Post quoted a talent evaluator who said Chamberlain has value on the trade market but, “in the past two years his stuff has gone backwards.” The source said that there are still “some people” who believe Chamberlain can be a Major League starter.
• In a mailbag, Padres beat writer Corey Brock reports that San Diego is not expected to pursue former Yankees utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. Brock guesses that Hairston will get roughly $2 million on the free agent market.
• The A’s are reportedly in the running for Brian Fuentes. This news comes just one day after they agreed to terms with Grant Balfour. Oakland already has a very good young rotation, and it’s added some solid pieces to its weak lineup, now the A’s seem to be focused on building an awfully good bullpen leading up to young closer Andrew Bailey.
Associated Press photo of Cashman
Essentially taking himself out of the running for Rafael Soriano, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said this afternoon that he absolutely will not make a move that costs the Yankees their top draft pick.
“I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” Cashman said. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.”
Most Type-A free agents have already signed — including Lee — but Soriano and Grant Balfour are still on the market. The Yankees have been linked to Soriano quite often, but Cashman said it’s possible to link the Yankees to just about every free agent out there. Cashman checks on the availability and asking price of pretty much everyone — “That’s my job,” he said — but those conversations don’t necessarily go any further.
“Talking about somebody doesn’t characterize a level of interest in any guy,” Cashman said. “And obviously this winter we’ve done a lot of talking.”
The Yankees most serious discussions centered on Lee. Aside from their own free agents — Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera — it was Lee who best fit the Yankees offseason needs. The Yankees made an aggressive push, but Lee ultimately settled into a deal with the Phillies. In the weeks since Lee signed, the free agent market has gone from bad to worse.
“It wasn’t strong,” Cashman said. “It’s certainly a lot less strong since (Lee) made his decision.”
What remains at the top of the free agent market is a group of designated hitters and a group of late-inning relievers. The Yankees have no spot for a DH, and they feel no need to be overly aggressive in chasing a reliever. That said, former closers Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch are among the relievers still on the market who would not cost a draft pick.
“We’re going to show up in Tampa, and we’re going to have a team that we’re proud of,” Cashman said.
If only because I’ve gotten a surprising number of emails on this topic… In theory, the Yankees could work out some sort of sign-and-trade scenario to land a Type-A free agent without losing a draft pick. Cashman called such a move a “legal maneuver” but also acknowledged that those sort of trades are complicated and difficult to pull off. They rarely happen in baseball.