Torre: 'I'm in charge here'
Skipper not paying attention to speculation about his job
NEW YORK -- There are any number of explanations for the Yankees' seven-game skid entering play Saturday. But even as speculation begins to swirl concerning the tenuous nature of manager Joe Torre's job, he is not inclined to lean upon any of them.
Two New York newspapers reported Saturday that Torre's job status could be in jeopardy by the end of the weekend if the Yankees suffer their second consecutive sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, who defeated the Bombers, 11-4, in the series opener on Friday.
"Right now, it's definitely frustrating with what's going on, and we understand anything could happen because of it," said general manager Brian Cashman, who noted all decisions lie in the hands of principal owner George Steinbrenner.
The Yankees have been trying to endure a rash of injuries and cover up a depleted starting rotation and an overworked bullpen, but Torre said he would not call upon any of those shortcomings if his security was called into question.
"This is my responsibility," Torre said. "I don't want to pawn off and say, 'It's not my fault.' I'm in charge here. I'm certainly not shying away from any responsibility. If you're going to enjoy the good times, you've certainly got to deal with some potholes.
"I'm not going to throw anybody to the wolves at this point. This is the team and I'm in charge. We have to find a way to get it done. It's not the fact that you can't win because this guy can't play or this guy can't pitch. We have to find a way to win -- that's my mentality."
Torre said that he spoke earlier in the week with Steinbrenner, following up after the Yankees were held winless in three games at Fenway Park.
"He wasn't happy then," Torre said, "but he's got every right not to be happy. We're not happy either."
Certainly, the course of events over the following four games have not done much to improve Steinbrenner's mood. Friday's loss to the Red Sox dropped the Yankees' April record to 8-13, leaving them in last place in the American League East, 6 1/2 games behind Boston.
Steinbrenner has not yet commented publicly on the Yankees' losing streak, but he is expected to do so through his spokesperson, Howard Rubenstein, at the conclusion of the weekend.
"I understand [Steinbrenner's] frustrations and obviously the history that goes on here," Torre said. "But that's what you understand when you take on this job. As far as everything else, I'm going to do the best I can to please him and make him proud of that ballclub."
That said, Torre -- who has gone through the experience of being dismissed by three Major League clubs in his managerial career, and saw his employment status threatened after the club's first-round exit to the Detroit Tigers in last season's AL Division Series -- said he would not entertain the idea of managing defensively.
"Hey, I've got a job to do," Torre said. "I certainly don't go out there and manage to try and keep my job. I manage to try to win ballgames. I've been doing it for 20-something years. I'm not comfortable with the fact we're losing.
"It's never a comfortable feeling, whether I'm with Yankees or any other team. I can't concern myself with what might happen. I've got to concern myself with what happens on the field and hopefully we can turn this thing around."
Torre said he has not paid attention to the media speculation, but admitted his players and clubhouse may have "sort of a different atmosphere" given the saturation. Center fielder Johnny Damon said that removing Torre would not fix what ails the club.
"Joe is incredible," Damon said. "He controls us in here. It's just unfortunate that we're losing. It's not his fault, it's ours."
The Yankees have navigated through April with their pitching staff creating their largest amount of stress. New York opened the season without projected Opening Day starter Chien-Ming Wang due to a strained right hamstring suffered late in Spring Training.
Their fallback starter for April 2, right-hander Carl Pavano, is back on the disabled list after missing the previous 1 1/2 Major League seasons due to a variety of injuries.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have also lost right-hander Mike Mussina to a strained left hamstring and played 12 games without the services of left fielder Hideki Matsui, who strained his left hamstring running the bases in an April 7 game against the Orioles.
The injury problems have shown little sign of slowing -- right-hander Jeff Karstens, who likely would have made the Yankees' roster out of Spring Training -- was drilled near the right kneecap after throwing just one pitch in his start Saturday against Boston, as Julio Lugo singled off the hurler and Karstens left the game one hitter later.
"I think [the mood is] one of need," Torre said before Saturday's game. "We need to win a ballgame to help our personality, to get the swagger back into our game. A well-pitched ballgame certainly does that, but you hate to dump everything on the pitching. It's a team effort and we certainly need to do this as a unit."
Torre said that the fact that four of the Yankees' first 13 losses have come against the rival Red Sox magnified the team's early failures, and that the Yankees might seem to garner more of a meaning in snapping their skid against Boston, considering it began at Fenway Park last Friday.
For the moment, Cashman said that he remains satisfied with Torre's managerial performance and that he feels no need to offer the 66-year-old a vote of confidence. That said, Cashman opted not to speak for Steinbrenner, who is entitled to his own opinions and his own courses of action.
"The owner has the final decision on everything," Cashman said. "It's his team."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.