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Tag:Brian Cashman
Posted on: December 8, 2011 6:45 pm
 

Angels' lineup will change "100%" with Pujols

Shortly after the Angels won a bidding war against the Miami Marlins and secured free agent left-hander C.J. Wilson in the early morning hours Thursday, the pitcher spoke with the general manager of his old team, the Texas Rangers, in a farewell conversation.

"Is there any way," Texas GM Jon Daniels joked, "that I can convince you to go to the Marlins?"

And that was before Albert Pujols committed to the Angels.

Yes, the landscape changed rapidly in the AL West this week and, as things go on paper in the winter-time, the Angels positioned themselves as the potential division favorites heading into 2012.

That's as of today, and who knows what happens tomorrow. The ultra-aggressive Rangers surely will answer the Angels moves -- Prince Fielder? -- and the earth could yet shift again before spring training.

"It's crazy," Wilson said. "With Albert going, there's a big swing on the balance of power in the West.

"I thought I would make a difference, but he makes a huge difference. Nobody saw that coming."

Indeed.

"I'm shocked about Anaheim swooping into it," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

As if it wasn't stunning enough that the Angels hauled in Pujols (10 years, $254 million), Wilson (five years, $77.5 million) and reliever LaTroy Hawkins (one year, $3 million) during the final 12 hours of the winter meetings, the suits in the organization say they will not look to trade anyone.

Mark Trumbo, who played first last year and will be replaced by Pujols? He's taking ground balls at third base, a position of weakness.

Kendrys Morales, who played first two years ago? Unlike last year, the Angels are proceeding with caution after a second ankle surgery caused him to miss all of 2011.

Veterans outfielders Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells and young speedsters Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout also will fit in, somewhere, somehow.

"You have the opportunity from an offensive perspective to plug one of the great hitters of all time into the middle of your lineup," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said. "And we feel like you can never have too much depth.

"As it pertains to Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, we still have the benefit of playing in the American League, where we have first base at-bats, we have DH at-bats, corner outfielders at-bats.

"And we've discussed as we've gone through and into this season to date, Mark Trumbo is particularly athletic for his size. The power leads you to believe first base, but he's got a little bit of history at third base and in the outfield. We know those DH bats are there.

"We are still unaware of exactly the timetable for Kendrys Morales. But if we have all three healthy and clicking on all cylinders, we're going to be in a really good position."

One of Dipoto's most important early goals is to improve an Angels' lineup that was 11th in the American League in on-base percentage last year. Pujols' career .420 OBP ranks second in the majors among active players.

"One-hundred percent he'll change our lineup," Hunter said. "The way pitchers approach us, he's one guy who can change the whole lineup. You put Pujols in any lineup, any lineup, and it will be better."

The Angels could not have stunned the baseball industry more. Word of Pujols' signing broke just before 9 a.m. local time, just as executives from every club were gathering for the annual Rule V draft.

Even inside their organization, there was a sense of disbelief.

"This is crazy," Hunter said. "I'm so excited right now it's unbelievable. I'm just happy we have this chance. We've got a legitimate chance."

Hunter was working out at the Dallas branch of the Athletes' Performance Institute with pitchers LaTroy Hawkins (who signed with the Angels on Wednesday night, less than 24 hours ahead of Pujols and C.J. Wilson), Joel Hanrahan (Pirates closer), Jamey Wright (Mariners) and several young prospects when he learned the news.

"Everyone went crazy when it came up on the phone," Hunter said. "I am trippin' right now."
Posted on: December 8, 2011 6:42 pm
 

Angels lineup will change "100%" with Pujols

Shortly after the Angels won a bidding war against the Miami Marlins and secured free agent left-hander C.J. Wilson in the early morning hours Thursday, the pitcher spoke with the general manager of his old team, the Texas Rangers, in a farewell conversation.

"Is there any way," Texas GM Jon Daniels joked, "that I can convince you to go to the Marlins?"

And that was before Albert Pujols committed to the Angels.

Yes, the landscape changed rapidly in the AL West this week and, as things go on paper in the winter-time, the Angels positioned themselves as the potential division favorites heading into 2012.

That's as of today, and who knows what happens tomorrow. The ultra-aggressive Rangers surely will answer the Angels moves -- Prince Fielder? -- and the earth could yet shift again before spring training.

"It's crazy," Wilson said. "With Albert going, there's a big swing on the balance of power in the West.

"I thought I would make a difference, but he makes a huge difference. Nobody saw that coming."

Indeed.

"I'm shocked about Anaheim swooping into it," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

As if it wasn't stunning enough that the Angels hauled in Pujols (10 years, $254 million), Wilson (five years, $77.5 million) and reliever LaTroy Hawkins (one year, $3 million) during the final 12 hours of the winter meetings, the suits in the organization say they will not look to trade anyone.

Mark Trumbo, who played first last year and will be replaced by Pujols? He's taking ground balls at third base, a position of weakness.

Kendrys Morales, who played first two years ago? Unlike last year, the Angels are proceeding with caution after a second ankle surgery caused him to miss all of 2011.

Veterans outfielders Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells and young speedsters Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout also will fit in, somewhere, somehow.

"You have the opportunity from an offensive perspective to plug one of the great hitters of all time into the middle of your lineup," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said. "And we feel like you can never have too much depth.

"As it pertains to Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, we still have the benefit of playing in the American League, where we have first base at-bats, we have DH at-bats, corner outfielders at-bats.

"And we've discussed as we've gone through and into this season to date, Mark Trumbo is particularly athletic for his size. The power leads you to believe first base, but he's got a little bit of history at third base and in the outfield. We know those DH bats are there.

"We are still unaware of exactly the timetable for Kendrys Morales. But if we have all three healthy and clicking on all cylinders, we're going to be in a really good position."

One of Dipoto's most important early goals is to improve an Angels' lineup that was 11th in the American League in on-base percentage last year. Pujols' career .420 OBP ranks second in the majors among active players.

"One-hundred percent he'll change our lineup," Hunter said. "The way pitchers approach us, he's one guy who can change the whole lineup. You put Pujols in any lineup, any lineup, and it will be better."

The Angels could not have stunned the baseball industry more. Word of Pujols' signing broke just before 9 a.m. local time, just as executives from every club were gathering for the annual Rule V draft.

Even inside their organization, there was a sense of disbelief.

"This is crazy," Hunter said. "I'm so excited right now it's unbelievable. I'm just happy we have this chance. We've got a legitimate chance."

Hunter was working out at the Dallas branch of the Athletes' Performance Institute with pitchers LaTroy Hawkins (who signed with the Angels on Wednesday night, less than 24 hours ahead of Pujols and C.J. Wilson), Joel Hanrahan (Pirates closer), Jamey Wright (Mariners) and several young prospects when he learned the news.

"Everyone went crazy when it came up on the phone," Hunter said. "I am trippin' right now."
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Yanks winter: "Pitching, pitching, pitching"

On Monday, the Yankees re-jiggered CC Sabathia's contract before his opt-out window closed.

On Tuesday, they held a conference call with Brian Cashman, fresh off of signing a thee-year deal to remain as the club's general manager.

Don't expect Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder by Wednesday or Thursday.

"I don't anticipate a bat being of need at all," Cashman said on the call Tuesday afternoon.

As for what the Yankees will focus on, here's a hint:

"Pitching, pitching, pitching," Cashman said.

Offense, the GM said, is "not a problem with this club at all, despite what happened with Detroit." The Yankees ranked second in the American League in both runs scored and on-base percentage and third in slugging percentage this summer and, despite Tigers pitching shutting the Yankees down earlier this month, Cashman said he thinks New York has enough sticks to contend again in 2012.

While he maintains that "that doesn't mean I'm not open-minded, realistically, offense is not something we're focusing on." Improving the depth in both the rotation and the bullpen? Now you're talking.

With Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and a post-surgery Joba Chamberlain on the horizon, Cashman called the New York bullpen "one of the strongest in the game." He would like to add another lefty to team with Boone Logan, if possible.

The free agent pitching market, led by C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson, is not too strong. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish is expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters.

All of this is why Cashman's time the past few days was monopolized by making sure that Sabathia did not become a free agent.

"We all know what CC brings to the table," Cashman said. "Pitching in front of the rotation, he he's created a great atmosphere in the clubhouse, he's one of our team leaders, he's influential in the community ... regarding all aspects of what you want the team to be, he's a major, major piece.

"You're comfortable every time he takes the ball."

His continued presence also allows the Yankees to approach free agency differently this winter because they can play from a position of relative strength.

"Securing CC allows us to be very open-minded and conservative in our approach," Cashman said. "We're in position now to take out time, explore and digest, pursue things at our own pace and not be over-reacting because we're vulnerable."

Some other Cashman thoughts heading into the winter:

-- On Alex Rodriguez's health: "I don't have any health concerns with Alex." Cashman said time will heal his sprained thumb, and it already has helped his surgically repaired knee.

-- On the club's interest in Jorge Posada: "He's been one of the best catchers in Yankees history, he's a borderline Hall of Famer and he's a free agent. That's something we'll have discussions on in the short term. It's not something I'm prepared to talk to you about today. He's been part of a lot of special moments here. He's created a lot of special moments."

-- On whether he feels more in control as GM with a three-year deal: "I don't think it's healthy to feel like you're in control. ... If you feel like you're in control, you've probably very vulnerable to some severe disappointments coming down the line."

-- He called catcher Russell Martin "Thurman Munson-like" in what he meant to the 2011 Yankees both on the field and in the clubhouse. Will that translate into a multi-year contract for the former Dodger, whom the Yankees control for one more year? Cashman said the Yankees right now enjoy the flexibility to go one more year with Martin, or "more than one if we find common ground."

-- He said the club will not consider moving A.J. Burnett to the bullpen. "If he is with us, without a doubt he is in the rotation," Cashman said. Cryptic? Maybe. The GM said "it would be hard to replace his innings. But I'm open-minded if anybody wants to approach us on anybody on the roster who does not have a no-trade clause. The worst that can happen is I say no. I'm open to creatively listening to anything anybody has to offer."

-- The biggest thing, Cashman said, is, like always, he has to improve the club's talent. He noted that the club "did not play to the best of our ability" against Detroit, and "part of that was under our control and part of that is what the Tigers put forth." With 97 wins, the Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball, Cashman said, "but October is a lot different. That's not an excuse. October is a lot different from April to September. You saw it with the crowning of the world championship team in St. Louis. They finished in the money the last day of the season, and then they ran the table. ... Is there a way to make it better? I'd like to think so. That's my job. I don't think all of our answers are in the clubhouse. Not at all. But I think some of the answers are in our clubhouse."

 

Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:34 pm
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Posted on: April 27, 2010 8:24 pm
 

Willis and Pierre: The path of friendship

Juan Pierre is godfather to both of Dontrelle Willis' daughters, little Adrianna Rose (3) and Bianca (1), giving the White Sox outfielder and the Detroit pitcher one more common bond in a couple of careers that have followed strangely (and intriguingly) similar arcs.

Best buddies from their early days in the Florida organization, both Pierre and Willis emerged as key figures in the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship run, had varying degrees of success afterward ... and then each man, for different reasons, hit the skids over the past two seasons before getting a renewed chance this year.

Like many of us at various times in our careers, their jobs turned sour and their strength of character was severely tested.

Except, well ... with Willis now in the final season of a three-year, $29 million deal and Pierre in the fourth season of a five-year, $44 million contract, maybe their challenges are a little different than those of most working stiffs.

"Come on, is it really that tough?" Willis asks of the challenges he and his buddy have faced over the past couple of years. "Really, in the grand scheme of things?"

Unlike a lot of guys, the affable Willis gets an 'A' for his perspective.

Yet, even that doesn't fully take away the sting when a guy can't -- or isn't -- performing.

Pierre, who had played in all 162 games over five consecutive seasons, became the odd-man out of the Dodgers' outfield in 2008 when they acquired Manny Ramirez.

Willis, who had been traded to Detroit, suddenly couldn't throw strikes for the Tigers in 2008.

Pierre could have sulked and demanded a trade when Manny took his playing time. And while he did have his moments of moodiness as a fourth outfielder in '08, he came to camp in '09 determined to make the best of the situation -- and this positive attitude aided in making Pierre hugely instrumental in sparking the Dodgers to first place in the NL West when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for a dirty performance-enhancing drug test.

Willis was so bad for Detroit over the past couple of seasons that he landed on the disabled list twice in 2009 -- for something called "anxiety disorder."

Yet each man persevered and is hoping in 2010 to come out the other side. Willis opened the season in the Tigers' rotation. Pierre is in the White Sox outfield after Dodgers' general manager Ned Colletti, in a class move, kept his promise to try and find a spot for Pierre where his playing time would increase.

"We hit it off because we have the same personality," Willis says. "We get to the field early, we work, we expect a lot of ourselves.

"Sometimes things are a blessing in disguise. We handled [the tough times over the past two years] with class. And now there is a situation for both of us where we're both turning it around.

"I don't think Juan would be in that situation if he didn't stay focused. It's made me proud. It's a testament to what kind of man he is and what kind of teammate he was."

Pierre, playing left field, is off to a slow start in Chicago, hitting .222 with a .282 on-base percentage. He does have nine steals in 18 games.

Willis, 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in four appearances (three starts), like Pierre, impressed teammates last year with his upbeat attitude despite tough personal times.

"We're not here to rock the boat," Willis says of he and his buddy Pierre. "We want to get along. Our work ethic speaks for itself. To give your best effort, that's all you can ask for whether you're a player, a writer, whatever."

Both within and outside of their own clubhouses, it's not difficult to find people rooting for both Willis and Pierre, so much so that yes, Willis says, he often feels the love.

"I appreciate it," Willis says. "I wasn't down when I was struggling. Everything was fine at home. Just because I was struggling doesn't mean everything was going bad. My family is good.

"It's one of those things where when you struggle, people think everything is wrong in your life. And it's not. I told Skip [manager Jim Leyland], 'Thanks for the opportunity.'

"I really like my teammates, this coaching staff, and the city of Detroit. I'm from Oakland, and Detroit is similar. I do feel a lot of people pulling for me, and I really appreciate it. And I think Juan is the same.

"We're really thankful."

Likes:  Sure is going to be entertaining watching the near-future gyrations of the agents for Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez after Ryan Howard signed his five-year, $125 million extension. ... This hilarious item in The Onion the other day: True Yankees, Regular Yankees to Now Wear Different Uniforms. Among the beauties in the story: "To have Javier Vazquez don the same pinstripes as Mariano Rivera or Jorge Posada is…well, it's unthinkable," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said as Curtis Granderson modeled the sterile, black-and-white uniform with a large, boxy, non-interlocking "NY" stitched across the front of the chest. ... Really enjoyed Adventureland, a film about a high school graduate having to forego dreams of a European trip before starting at an Ivy League school when his parents have a financial setback, leaving him to a summer job at a Pittsburgh-area amusement park in 1987. Lots of funny (and painful) stuff. James Brennan and Kristen Stewart are terrific. It's out on DVD now and definitely worth catching.

Dislikes: The one television show my wife loves that will drive me out of the room every time: Glee.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Me and some guys from school
"Had a band and we tried real hard
"Jimmy quit and Jody got married
"I shoulda known we'd never get far
"Oh when I look back now
"That summer seemed to last forever
"And if I had the choice
"Yeah, I'd always wanna be there
"Those were the best days of my life"

-- Bryan Adams, Summer of '69

 

Posted on: March 8, 2009 7:51 pm
 

Aging Yanks need A-Rod

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The New York Yankees grew sick and tired of discussing Alex Rodriguez and steroids about 30 seconds after they arrived at Camp Steinbrenner this spring.

But given the choice of talking steroids with A-Rod in their lineup, or drifting away from the topic while A-Rod misses the first two months of the season while recuperating from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip?

Don't let anyone kid you, the Yankees would take the steroids conversation and A-Rod in a heartbeat.

General manager Brian Cashman said as much after the A-Rod press conference upon his arrival in Tampa. Nearly 20 Yankees attended, and when someone asked Cashman afterward whether he really believed the roll call was because of a true affinity for Rodriguez, Cashman, in as honest a moment as there was that day, demurred.

Some of them attended out of an affinity for A-Rod, Cashman said. But others attended because they know how vital he is to this season and they know they've got to do everything they can to make sure he's not a basket case.

"We've invested in him as an asset," Cashman said that day. "And because of that, this is an asset that is going through a crisis. So we'll do everything we can to protect that asset and support that asset and try to salvage that asset."

This is a team that ranked seventh in the American League in runs scored last season with Rodriguez. Yes, the Yankees added free agent Mark Teixeira. But they also lost Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, a couple of solid on-base guys.

And catcher Jorge Posada and outfielder Hideki Matsui each is another year older and returning from surgery, and right now center field is an open competition between Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner (no, neither will be posting Mickey Mantle offensive numbers).

And the club's most realistic in-house option as we speak to replace A-Rod at third is ... Cody Ransom?

A-Rod may have perpetual foot-in-mouth disease, but whatever "distractions" he brings, that the Yankees are a far better club with him between the white lines is unassailable.

Colleague Danny Knobler looked up some numbers the other day and came up with this: In five seasons with the Yankees, A-Rod has started all but 46 games. During that time, the Yankees were 146 games over .500 in games he's started and four games under .500 when he was not in the lineup.

The Yankees right now have two huge issues:

One, how in the world they're going to plug the leak while he's away in April and May (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, time to step up!).

Two, what kind of shape will he be in when he returns? To expect him to come back from hip surgery, flick a switch and immediately post A-Rod-like numbers is completely disingenuous. Even the great A-Rod is going to need a period of rehabilitation, and odds are he will not be playing at 100 percent for a significant part of this season.

Consider this a stark reminder that, despite all the millions they spent this winter, the Yankees remain dangerously old in several key spots. A-Rod is 33, Matsui and Derek Jeter are 34, Johnny Damon 35 and Posada 37.

Somewhere, the defending American League East champion Tampa Bay Rays must be feeling younger and more limber than ever.

 

 

Posted on: February 15, 2009 5:06 pm
 

Where have you gone, Phil Hughes?

TAMPA, Fla. -- His locker is just a couple down from heavyweights CC Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain in the New York Yankees' spring clubhouse here, yet he comes and goes with barely a notice.

Last spring, right-hander Phil Hughes was one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball.

Now, with an injury practically being the only thing that could knock Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Chamberlain from the rotation, Hughes is something else.

An apparition.

"Last spring, Ian (Kennedy) and I had a lot of pressure to step in. It's different this year," said Hughes in what may be as big an understatement as you'll hear all spring. "I look at it as a positive. We have three or four guys in our rotation who would be capable of being in the top of any rotation in baseball.

"Whether I fit into it now or toward the end of the year, I'll try and contribute wherever I'm needed."

Maybe it's better this way. Hughes, still only 22, was catapulted into the limelight last winter when the Yankees decided to follow Boston's lead (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon) and emphasize its young pitching. Then Hughes became The Next Can't Miss Kid when the Yanks refused to include him in a deal with Minnesota for Johan Santana, who eventually was traded to the New York Mets.

Ultimately, Hughes not only failed to achieve liftoff in 2008, he mostly looked unsure of himself and completely overmatched in going 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA in eight starts before minor-league assignments and a broken rib sidetracked the rest of what was supposed to be his coming-out party.

Instead, he found himself pitching in obscurity in the Arizona Fall League in October as the Yankees were sitting out the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Meanwhile, Kennedy went 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA and managed to pitch himself further out of New York's plans than did Hughes.

"I thought it was important that they learned from last year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That they took something from it, and that they understand what it takes to stay here."

Girardi said that each needs to understand "how to attack the (strike) zone" and locate his fastball.

One of the few openings the club is expected to have probably will be for a long reliever who can double as a spot starter, and Girardi made it clear that while Hughes possibly could fill that void, he would be concerned that it could slow the kid's development. Most likely, the long reliever/spot starter job is what the Yankees brought in guys like Brett Tomko for.

Also, Hughes has suffered a string of injuries, which adds to the evidence of those wondering whether he's star-crossed. In addition to the rib, he's suffered hamstring and ankle injuries in the past two years.

Mostly, the Yankees think that Hughes and Kennedy simply need to pitch, that the more innings they rack up, the more steadily they will develop. However, after sitting out October last year, the difference this year, what with moving into the new stadium in April and signing Sabathia and Burnett, is that the Yanks no longer are willing to allow them to learn on the job.

Hughes thinks he is back on track after fighting his mechanics for most of '08.

"My mechanics ideally should stay the same on every pitch," he said, meaning fastball, curve, whatever the selection. "That happens when I slow things down and get a good balance point."

He never could slow things down in his on-the-job audition with the Yankees in '08.

He says he was able to slow them down in Arizona, and his first bullpen session of the spring went well -- in his estimation -- on Sunday.

"In the past, I was rushing through my balance point," Hughes said. "When I'm deliberate in my delivery, I get a good balance point. And everything comes from that."

Likes: Brian Cashman's honesty. Whatever you think of the Yankees, love 'em or hate 'em, the general manager is a stand-up guy. Answering Alex Rodriguez questions the other day, he said that the organization had to run toward the A-Rod situation, not run away from it. True enough. But I especially chuckled over his assessment of this year's Yankees in Tyler Kepner's piece in Sunday's New York Times: "We are a bad defensive team, so a guy that prevents the ball from being put into play is a good thing for us." He was referring to A.J. Burnett ranking third in strikeouts per nine innings among pitchers who worked 500 or more innings last year, and CC Sabathia ranking seventh. Everybody knows that Yankees aren't exactly overloaded with Gold Glovers -- not with Johnny Damon in the outfield, range-challenged Derek Jeter at shortstop, Robinson Cano at second, etc. But for a GM to come right out and say "we are a bad defensive team" ... priceless.

Sunblock day? Barely. Warm, a little humid, but not much sun on a mis-named Sunday.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Ring the bells that still can ring
"Forget your perfect offering
"There is a crack, a crack in everything
"That's how the light gets in."

-- Leonard Cohen, Anthem

 

Posted on: February 15, 2009 5:02 pm
 

Where have you gone, Phil Hughes?

TAMPA, Fla. -- His locker is just a couple down from heavyweights CC Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain in the New York Yankees' spring clubhouse here, yet he comes and goes with barely a notice.

Last spring, right-hander Phil Hughes was one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball.

Now, with an injury practically being the only thing that could knock Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Chamberlain from the rotation, Hughes is something else.

An apparition.

"Last spring, Ian (Kennedy) and I had a lot of pressure to step in. It's different this year," said Hughes in what may be as big an understatement as you'll hear all spring. "I look at it as a positive. We have three or four guys in our rotation who would be capable of being in the top of any rotation in baseball.

"Whether I fit into it now or toward the end of the year, I'll try and contribute wherever I'm needed."

Maybe it's better this way. Hughes, still only 22, was catapulted into the limelight last winter when the Yankees decided to follow Boston's lead (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon) and emphasize its young pitching. Then Hughes became The Next Can't Miss Kid when the Yanks refused to include him in a deal with Minnesota for Johan Santana, who eventually was traded to the New York Mets.

Ultimately, Hughes not only failed to achieve liftoff in 2008, he mostly looked unsure of himself and completely overmatched in going 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA in eight starts before minor-league assignments and a broken rib sidetracked the rest of what was supposed to be his coming-out party.

Instead, he found himself pitching in obscurity in the Arizona Fall League in October as the Yankees were sitting out the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Meanwhile, Kennedy went 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA and managed to pitch himself further out of New York's plans than did Hughes.

"I thought it was important that they learned from last year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That they took something from it, and that they understand what it takes to stay here."

Girardi said that each needs to understand "how to attack the (strike) zone" and locate his fastball.

One of the few openings the club is expected to have probably will be for a long reliever who can double as a spot starter, and Girardi made it clear that while Hughes possibly could fill that void, he would be concerned that it could slow the kid's development. Most likely, the long reliever/spot starter job is what the Yankees brought in guys like Brett Tomko for.

Also, Hughes has suffered a string of injuries, which adds to the evidence of those wondering whether he's star-crossed. In addition to the rib, he's suffered hamstring and ankle injuries in the past two years.

Mostly, the Yankees think that Hughes and Kennedy simply need to pitch, that the more innings they rack up, the more steadily they will develop. However, after sitting out October last year, the difference this year, what with moving into the new stadium in April and signing Sabathia and Burnett, is that the Yanks no longer are willing to allow them to learn on the job.

Hughes thinks he is back on track after fighting his mechanics for most of '08.

"My mechanics ideally should stay the same on every pitch," he said, meaning fastball, curve, whatever the selection. "That happens when I slow things down and get a good balance point."

He never could slow things down in his on-the-job audition with the Yankees in '08.

He says he was able to slow them down in Arizona, and his first bullpen session of the spring went well -- in his estimation -- on Sunday.

"In the past, I was rushing through my balance point," Hughes said. "When I'm deliberate in my delivery, I get a good balance point. And everything comes from that."

Likes: Brian Cashman's honesty. Whatever you think of the Yankees, love 'em or hate 'em, the general manager is a stand-up guy. Answering Alex Rodriguez questions the other day, he said that the organization had to run toward the A-Rod situation, not run away from it. True enough. But I especially chuckled over his assessment of this year's Yankees in Tyler Kepner's piece in Sunday's New York Times: "We are a bad defensive team, so a guy that prevents the ball from being put into play is a good thing for us." He was referring to A.J. Burnett ranking third in strikeouts per nine innings among pitchers who worked 500 or more innings last year, and CC Sabathia ranking seventh. Everybody knows that Yankees aren't exactly overloaded with Gold Glovers -- not with Johnny Damon in the outfield, range-challenged Derek Jeter at shortstop, Robinson Cano at second, etc. But for a GM to come right out and say "we are a bad defensive team" ... priceless.

Sunblock day? Barely. Warm, a little humid, but not much sun on a mis-named Sunday.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Ring the bells that still can ring
"Forget your perfect offering
"There is a crack, a crack in everything
"That's how the light gets in."

-- Leonard Cohen, Anthem

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com