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Yankees GM Brian Cashman trying to upgrade offense

Brian CashmanThe reconstructed Yankees rotation has performed better than Brian Cashman would have anticipated, and the general manager said that he’d now prefer to focus his attention on acquiring a big bat as the July 31 non-waivers Trade Deadline approaches.

“It’s weird,” Cashman said in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 FM. “Our pitching has been drastically altered because of the injuries, and despite losing four out of five starters and all that stuff, our pitching has survived – surprisingly, to this point. I think our offense should be better.

“… It still feels like the pitching needs more help, but honestly the offense has been consistently poor throughout the entire year. The answer has to be an offensive piece, I guess.”

The Yankees believe they upgraded their infield this week by acquiring Chase Headley from the Padres, but they could also use a right-handed hitting outfielder. The Twins’ Josh Willingham makes some sense as a potential trade target, as does the Rangers’ Alex Rios.

Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have been constants in the Yankees’ outfield this year, but 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki has faltered with regular playing time and the team still isn’t sure if Carlos Beltran will be able to return to defensive duty this year because of a bone spur in his throwing elbow.

Cashman also said that he does not see homegrown 23-year-old Rob Refsnyder as the answer to help a lineup that has produced 395 runs through 100 games; only the Astros (394) have scored less among American League teams this season.

Refsnyder has enjoyed some buzz at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he had a .301/.401/.497 slash line entering play on Thursday, but Cashman said that he does not believe Refsnyder would represent a significant upgrade over Brian Roberts at second base right now.

“He has a chance to be the second baseman of the future maybe as early as next year,” Cashman said, adding that if Refsnyder does see any big league time in 2014, it would likely be in the outfield. “If we can avoid it, I don’t think we’d get the impact over the next two months that people would think. That jump from Triple-A to the big leagues is larger than it’s ever been.”


Masahiro Tanaka is still reporting discomfort in his right elbow, 10 days after having a platelet-rich plasma injection, but the Yankees are still hopeful of having the right-hander return to the big league mound this season.

Tanaka was diagnosed with a small tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament earlier this month. Three doctors recommended a six-week rehab program instead of having Tanaka undergo Tommy John surgery.

“He’s improved, but he still feels it,” Cashman said. “On a daily basis, it decreases, so that’s good. But it’s not good that he’s still feeling it at this stage. We just go day by day and week by week, and we’ll adjust accordingly. Right now, it’s too early to call.”

The Yankees have said that Tanaka would have three weeks of rest from throwing, so he would likely attempt to resume playing catch in the first week of August. After that, Tanaka would have to go through the gauntlet of bullpen sessions, batting practice and then Minor League rehab games to get back to the big leagues.

“We’ve got to wait three weeks to see where he’s at,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Then we’ll probably have him start to have him play catch and see if he’s going to be a pitcher for us. You’ve got to let things heal. Things don’t heal overnight.”


Manager Joe Girardi said that the Yankees will likely make a roster decision regarding injured first baseman Mark Teixeira by Friday.

Thursday’s series finale against the Rangers will be Teixeira’s fourth consecutive game out of the lineup due to a mild strain of his lower left lat. After Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Reds, Teixeira underwent an MRI exam that revealed the injury.

“It’s just seeing how he feels after three or four days,” Girardi said. “Then we’ll decide if we think it’s going to be the near future that he would play or we’re going to need the 15-day [disabled list]. If it’s going to be 12, 13, 14 days, it probably makes sense to get a player here.”


Because of rain in Tampa, Fla., Michael Pineda’s simulated game was moved indoors on Thursday morning. The rehabbing right-hander threw 30 pitches, with no hitters. He will progress to throwing three innings or 45 pitches against live hitters in five days.


Derek Jeter was out of the Yankees’ lineup on Thursday; Girardi said that it was a regular day off, and that if it had been a night game, Jeter probably would have played.

Brian McCann feeling “more comfortable” at first base

It probably wasn’t the two games spent scooping throws in a long-ago high school tournament, but for whatever reason, playing a little bit of first base seems to be agreeing with Brian McCann.

With Mark Teixeira nursing a strained lat, McCann started his second consecutive game at first base on Wednesday. It marked McCann’s fourth career start and ninth appearance at the position, all of which have come with the Yankees this year.

“I feel a lot more comfortable than I thought I would, to be honest with you,” McCann said. “I don’t know why I feel more comfortable over there than I thought, but it’s a good thing.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi noted that McCann played some first base in high school, but that’s a little bit of a stretch; McCann clarified that he spent most of his time catching, and only played a pair of games at first base. Most of what he is doing now is learning on the fly.

“It’s just going to be pure reaction for me,” McCann said. “But I feel comfortable fielding, picking, whatever I need to do.”

McCann said that he has been borrowing a glove from Kelly Johnson, but he is in the process of breaking in his own model. He said that the physical break is a welcome benefit, compared to the average day of bumps and bruises from catching.

“Absolutely, it might be a way you can keep his bat in the lineup a little bit more, and he doesn’t get as beat up,” Girardi said.

McCann said that the most challenging part of the position so far have been slight nuances which may not necessarily be noticed by the average observer.

“It’s just knowing where to be, knowing little things about the game,” McCann said. “Doing cutoffs, I may forget to do that. Last night I forgot to follow the trail runner at second. Just doing those little parts of the game over there is different.”

McCann signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees this past offseason, and when he did, the team said that they envisioned him as a catcher deep into the deal. They still do, but McCann said that he’s fine with pitching in at first base, especially given the injuries to Teixeira and Johnson.

“Like I said, whatever’s best for this team,” McCann said. “Obviously with Tex being out, it’s tough, so someone’s got to fill in. I’ll be that guy.”


CC Sabathia had arthroscopic debridement surgery performed on his right knee on Wednesday, and the Yankees left-hander is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers’ team physician, performed the procedure. Sabathia was limited to just eight starts this season, going 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA, and has not pitched in a big league game since May 10.

Sabathia has struggled the past two years, going a combined 17-17 with a 4.87 ERA. He attempted to rehab with the aid of a stem cell injection, but experienced more knee issues after making a Minor League start for Double-A Trenton on July 2.

While Sabathia was disappointed to learn that his season was ending early, the 34-year-old said that he was relieved to avoid microfracture surgery, a procedure which could have potentially been career-threatening.

“It’s something that I’m going to have to deal with probably for the rest of my life and eventually have a big surgery,” Sabathia said last week. “Right now the goal is to keep playing and this is the easiest way to do it.”


Michael Pineda is continuing to move along the comeback trail. The Yankees right-hander has been scheduled to throw a simulated game on Wednesday, a notable step as he attempts to return to a big league mound.

Pineda threw batting practice on Sunday at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla. After a promising start to his season, he has not appeared in a big league game since April 23 because of an upper back strain behind his pitching shoulder.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Pineda is scheduled to throw two innings or 30 pitches. Pineda initially sustained the injury while throwing during his 10-game suspension for pine tar use, then had a setback while on rehab in May.


Masahiro Tanaka has reported some improvement, according to Yankees manager Joe Girardi, but it will still be another two weeks before Tanaka can resume throwing. Tanaka is in the early stages of a six-week rehab program intended to heal the partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament.

“He did say he feels better, but I don’t think you really know how he’s doing until you get him on a mound and you start going forward,” Girardi said.

Welcome to the Derek Jeter All-Star Game

You can sense a shift in the excitement level when Derek Jeter approaches, walking up the tunnel to the dugout, spikes clacking on concrete. The photographers begin throwing elbows and jockeying for position, reporters ready their microphones, and even some of the players seem to jerk their heads around and pay closer attention.

It’s still the American League and the National League, playing for home field advantage in the World Series, which is a big deal. Yet this sure feels a lot like a midsummer celebration that is going to revolve around Jeter, something that he still doesn’t seem sure about. To Jeter, they’ve all been special.

“I’ve always enjoyed All-Star Games,” Jeter said. “This is a game that I truly have always looked forward to. I’ve appreciated the time that I’ve had here. It’s kind of difficult to say I’ll try to enjoy it more because I don’t know how much more I can enjoy it.”

The media crush around Jeter’s table this afternoon made Dellin Betances shake his head and laugh. A first-time All-Star, this is all new to Betances, but even someone in their first hours on the floor can tell that there’s a different energy here.

“Oh man. Watching him in his last year, this is amazing,” Betances said, with a laugh. “I’m honored to be here. It’s a great experience getting to meet these guys and know them a little bit. For me, just being here with Jeet’s last year, I’m honored to be here.”

This Midsummer Classic, marking Jeter’s 14th All-Star selection and his ninth fan-elected start, figures to be different than those that preceded it. Jeter will be in the spotlight from the first pitch on, with Red Sox manager John Farrell slotting Jeter to lead off for the American League.

“It’s a rare and unique opportunity,” Farrell said. “At the same time, we are able to celebrate a player who is not only a champion, but a guy that sets the bar that I think all players should aspire to.”

Here are some assorted reactions from All-Stars in both leagues about Jeter’s final trip to the Midsummer Classic:

Mike Trout, Angels: “I would just turn on the TV and knew he was the best player. Just the way he carried himself; he isn’t out there talking smack, he’s just letting the championships speak for him.”

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: “It’ll be neat. Jeter’s been my role model, watching him as a kid, competing against him, seeing him from a young player, to now an older player playing in his last All-Star game, it’s going to be an honor. It’s something I’ll always remember, taking the field and playing against him.”

Johnny Cueto, Reds: “It’s amazing actually seeing him right now. I think he can still play. He wants to go home and be with his family. He deserves to retire. I think he’s one of the greats of all time.”
 
Victor Martinez, Tigers: “You know what, I think I’m going to cross the line a little bit, but I think Major League Baseball needs to do something with those kind of players like him. They don’t come around often, and he should go to the Hall of Fame as soon as the season’s over. I have a great amount of respect. He’s a guy I always looked up to. He plays the game the right way.”

Todd Frazier, Reds, on standing next to Jeter as a 12-year-old in 1998: “I’m just looking around like a kid in a candy store. I talked to him three years ago. We worked out together in Florida for a little bit. I said, ‘Do you remember that?’ He started laughing. He said ‘Holy cow, don’t tell anybody.’ That’s just the way he is. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy and I can’t wait to see his final All-Star game playing against him.”
 
Terry Francona, Indians manager: “That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most the next couple of days, to see how he is received. He embodies so much about what is good about game. To be able to watch him in person, I’m really looking forward to that. It’s kind of an honor to compete against him and his team because of the way he goes about things.”

Jon Lester, Red Sox: “It will be pretty cool. I don’t want to age him too much but watching him grow up, obviously the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and having to deal with him all the time … I’m just glad he’s finally done so I don’t have to face him anymore. It will be a cool experience to be a part of this and he deserves everything that he gets and hopefully he won’t get hounded too much and he can actually enjoy it and have fun and really take away some memories from this for him.”

Max Scherzer, Tigers: “It’s going to be awesome. Last year I got the experience of being here with Mariano for his last All-Star Game, and that was an unbelievable experience. The All-Star Game is already cool enough, but to have a legend go out just made it even better. When that happens on Tuesday with Jeter, what he’s meant to this game is only going to make it that much more special for everybody involved – fans, players, everybody. We’ll always remember this.”

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: “He’s kind of been the face of the game for the past 18 or 20 years. It’s always good when you have a guy like that; LeBron in the NBA, we had Brett Favre, now there’s Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers (in the NFL). To have a guy like Jeter, he embodies all that baseball is. He’s a winner, he’s a great player. I can’t have any more respect for a guy. We’re going to miss him and it’s exciting to be here for his last All-Star Game.”

Robinson Cano, Mariners: “I can’t wait for that. He’s a guy I love. The way he was with me when I was in New York, he was a great teammate; one of the best, maybe the best ever that I’ve had. I can’t wait to be able to spend time with him today.”

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: “It’s going to be great. I had the chance to do it last year with Mariano. It’s going to be a great experience. I look forward to today and tomorrow to talk to him, try to steal something from him so I can be a better baseball player.”

Ron Gardenhire, Twins manager: “He’s one of these guys who is what baseball is all about. He’s the probably the most professional guy. He’s in the community and has always handled himself really well. And also, he’s a winner. He’s brought championships to that baseball team over there and the whole package. He’s just a guy who makes everyone around him feel good. That’s what leaders do. We’ve had guys like that like Puckett. They always make everybody feel good around you.”

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: “It will be very special, his last one is going to be awesome. Hopefully there is something dedicated to him and acknowledging him. I was able to play against him in Panama and see that whole atmosphere and just the respect. It’s unmatched. It will be cool to be on the same field again and be a part of it.”

Tyler Clippard, Nationals: “I was in the Minor Leagues at the complex there in Tampa, and as a young kid, probably about 18 or 19 years old — watching him walk around, very much in awe just because it’s Derek Jeter. I think I asked him for his autograph and he was very cordial, very nice about it. It made me feel like I was part of the team, even though I was just a Minor League kid.”


Henderson Alvarez, Marlins: “The fact that I get to be on the same field as Derek Jeter who is here for his last is something that makes me overjoyed, something that is important to me. I just anticipate enjoying it and soaking it all in.”

Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays: “It’s been cool. He’s owned me over his career, so I’m not too sad to see him go and get out of the game because it’s a hard at-bat.  Obviously what he has done for baseball over the course of his career, he’s the top guy in Major League Baseball on and off the field. So it’s going to be sad to see him go.”

 

Masahiro Tanaka opts not to attend All-Star Game

Masahiro Tanaka has decided not to attend the July 15 All-Star Game at Target Field, the Yankees announced on Saturday.

Tanaka is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a small tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament, and is scheduled to begin a rehab program that the Yankees hope can get him back on a Major League mound in six weeks.

Manager Joe Girardi said that Tanaka, who issued a statement on Friday apologizing to the Yankees and their fans for the injury, would prefer to skip the trip to Minneapolis and focus on his rehabilitation.

“I think it’s really unfortunate, because he had a great first half and he’s not able to be a part of it,” Girardi said. “But for some reason, I think he’s going to get a chance to be a part of another one.”

Tanaka, 25, was selected as an American League All-Star after going 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts. Following the injury, Red Sox manager John Farrell replaced Tanaka on the AL squad with Boston reliever Koji Uehara.


Jeff Francis has appeared in 238 Major League games with four different clubs, but the left-hander has never had an opportunity to pitch in Yankee Stadium, something that the 10-year big league vet is looking forward to.

“It’s probably been said a hundred times over, but that’s a building with a lot of history, even though it’s new,” Francis said. “The team has a lot of history, so it’s something that I’m looking forward to.”

The present, and not the organization’s history, was on the Yankees’ mind when they acquired Francis along with cash considerations from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for a player to be named later.

The Yankees could use help soaking up innings out of the bullpen, where Adam Warren described the squad as “not fresh, obviously, but I wouldn’t say we’re going out there pitching injured.”

Francis had been working as a long reliever with Oakland, where he was 0-1 with a 6.08 ERA in nine appearances. He started the year with the Reds, where he made one start.

“Right now he’s probably a two-inning guy and another left-hander,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Maybe he gets stretched out during some games for us. That’s not really what you want, but maybe it happens. It’s just another guy that can give you multiple innings.”

To create room for Francis on the active roster, the Yankees designated right-hander Matt Daley for assignment. Daley was called up on Friday when the Yankees designated right-hander Jim Miller for assignment.


Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda is inching back toward game action. Pineda threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Friday at the club’s complex in Tampa, Fla., and reported no issues. His best-case scenario is a big league return in mid-August.

Brian Roberts returns to familiar turf in Baltimore

Brian Roberts spent 13 summers in Baltimore, draped in orange and black, and this weekend marks his first trip back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards since signing with the Yankees. The surroundings are intimately familiar, yet as he surveyed the visiting clubhouse, it also felt strange.

“It’s crazy,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if I walked in here one time in my career. It’s definitely strange to walk by the home clubhouse and come over here, but it’s kind of a new chapter of life. I’m certainly excited to be back; spent the night in my house. It’s good to sleep in your own bed sometimes.”
 
Roberts said that he has not given much thought to how he’ll be received by Orioles fans, though both Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi said that Roberts deserves to hear a good ovation after contributing to so many Baltimore clubs over his career.

“I’m excited to get back on the field. Certainly my favorite stadium to play in,” Roberts said. “The fans were always great to me and the city was always great to me and my family. I’m not overly concerned with it. You never want to get booed, but at the same time, they’re pulling for their team and I understand that. I don’t expect them to be cheering me on all night.”


The Yankees acquired left-hander Jeff Francis, along with cash considerations, on Friday from the Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later.

One night after he surrendered five runs in 1 2/3 innings to the Indians, New York designated right-hander Jim Miller for assignment. They recalled right-hander Matt Daley from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The 33-year-old Francis was designated for assignment by the A’s after posting a 6.08 ERA over 13 1/3 innings in nine relief appearances. Francis is expected to join the Yankees on Saturday in Baltimore.

“Obviously he’s a guy that was stretched out, but he is not now,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s a guy that’s probably in the 30 to 40 pitch range right now. We’ll talk to him when he gets here and see what he’s been doing the past few days.”

Francis started the year with the Reds, starting one game — giving up three runs on five hits in five innings — before Oakland claimed him off waivers. He has a career record of 70-80 with a 4.95 ERA, and could be used to help out on Sunday in a start that was originally assigned to Masahiro Tanaka.

“I really haven’t seen him pitch a lot,” Girardi said. “I’ll get to know him as soon as he gets here.”


Seeking additional opinions on his injured right knee, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia has cancelled his appointment with Dr. James Andrews and will be seen by two other orthopedic specialists, the team announced on Friday.

Sabathia had been scheduled to see Andrews on Monday. Instead, he has lined up appointments with Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister.

It has been suggested that Sabathia may need microfracture surgery in his right knee, which has been said to have significant cartilage damage. Sabathia again experienced inflammation after his second Minor League rehab start, and the Yankees are not sure if he will be able to return this season.


Derek Jeter is scheduled to play in all three games against the Orioles at Camden Yards this weekend, manager Joe Girardi said. Jeter went 2-for-4 in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Indians, registering the 1,000th multi-hit game of his career. Jeter is the sixth player in Major League history to do so, joining Ty Cobb (1,293), Pete Rose (1,225), Tris Speaker (1,059), Stan Musial (1,059) and Henry Aaron (1,046).

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