Notes: Flood of support for Torre
Yankees take responsibility for club's two-game ALDS deficit
NEW YORK -- With their backs against the walls in the American League Division Series on Sunday, the Yankees voiced their support of manager Joe Torre, who could be dismissed if the team does not go further.
Principal owner George Steinbrenner told The Record of Hackensack, N.J., late Saturday that Torre may not be invited back for a 13th season as manager if his team fizzles out in the first round of the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Torre, who addressed his players before Sunday's Game 3, said that the topic of Steinbrenner's comments did not come up in the meeting and that the clubhouse seemed relaxed. General manager Brian Cashman said that no one in the organization -- Torre and Cashman included -- are ever "promised tomorrow."
"It's all about today," Cashman said. "Today we need to win a game to keep us going. It's as simple as that.
"I think we're all very well equipped to deal with everything that's thrown at us. Joe's as tough as they come, and obviously having been here for a long period of time, he's dealt with a lot. Joe's strong, and he can handle it."
Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina sprang to Torre's defense, saying that the players are the ones responsible for putting the team in an 0-2 hole after dropping Games 1 and 2 at Cleveland's Jacobs Field. Mussina said that the deficit should not be a reflection of Torre's abilities.
"It really is not easy to play six months and be one of the four teams left in our league," Mussina said. "It really is not easy to do that year after year. When he's done it 13 times in a row, I don't know what more you want. But that's my opinion. I'd play for the guy anytime.
"I don't think you can ask any more from somebody. He's dealt with every circumstance that has come up, from injuries to players not playing up to their abilities, to scrutiny. He's stood tall and got us to the postseason every year. Once you get to this point, it's a crapshoot what happens. The best team doesn't necessarily win."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter deflected questions concerning Torre and Steinbrenner, saying only that "We're trying to win today." Outfielder Johnny Damon accepted responsibility for the Yankees' struggles as a team, saying, "You know what? George is the Boss. We just have to go and play better."
Reggie Jackson, a special advisor for the organization, responded to a question about Torre's status by recalling upon one lesson from his playing career.
"The moral I've always said is that as long as you have a bat in your hand and an out left before the game is over, you can rewrite the story," Jackson said. "When I was playing, if I could get one more trip, I could change what had been written for 8 2/3 innings."
Torre said that he had one thing on his mind for Sunday -- winning a baseball game. The other items, he said, were extraneous.
"If I get caught up in that, then I really think I'm going to have a tougher time doing my job," Torre said. "There are too many people relying on me."
Shaking it up: Filling out his lineup card for Game 3, Torre turned to the history books in selecting Jason Giambi over Doug Mientkiewicz at first base.
Giambi has six hits in 14 at-bats (.429) lifetime against Indians starter Jake Westbrook, including a two-run home run this season on Aug. 12.
"I'm just trying to see if we can get our offense going," Torre said. "But he has good numbers."
Hideki Matsui, hitless in the first two games of the ALDS, has also hit Westbrook well. Matsui had five hits in 11 at-bats against the Cleveland right-hander, a .455 batting average.
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What happens Monday? No definite starter for Game 4 had been named as of game time, with the Yankees clawing for their playoff existence. Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang -- pitching on short rest -- appear to be the most likely possibilities, but Torre indicated that Mussina would be available in relief if needed in Game 3.
"Right now, we need to push for tomorrow," Torre said. "We have everybody else on deck today, other than [Game 2 starter] Andy Pettitte, so we'll see who's left standing after the game tonight and make a decision about who starts tomorrow."
Torre took Mussina aside and told him a concrete decision still had not reached concerning Monday's possible game. Likewise, Wang had also been alerted and threw a bullpen session on Saturday.
"Let's get through today and we'll talk about it," Torre said.
Bombers bits: Sunday's ceremonial first pitch was thrown by former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, to catcher Jorge Posada. ... The national anthem was performed by the United States Military Academy glee club, under the supervision of Constance Chase, and was immediately followed by a flyover of two FA 18E Hornets. ... Jeter entered having played in 49 career Division Series games and 122 career postseason games, passing Bernie Williams for first place in both categories on baseball's all-time list.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.