Yankees seek to shore up for postseason
Pitching could be the focus of Trade Deadline dealing
There was a time when an afternoon like the one of June 27 would have raised the threat level to its highest reading at Yankee Stadium, with two starting pitchers slamming onto the disabled list within hours of one another.
Phones would have been hoisted, orders would have been given and -- most likely -- by nightfall the Yankees would have dispatched valuable prospects somewhere around baseball for at least one new starting pitcher.
Days don't seem to work that way in the post-George Steinbrenner era, and so fans shouldn't have been surprised when general manager Brian Cashman coolly suggested the Yankees could weather the storm after losing both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte to the DL.
"We'll just have to figure it out and see what happens," Cashman said. "I would prefer not to go outside [the organization]. Obviously, if we do go outside, we've done that before. This is part of the process. You have to have alternatives; this gives opportunities for people to step up."
In the Yankees' case, that means holding the fort for the moment, giving a second chance in the rotation to Freddy Garcia while expecting to welcome Sabathia back from a strained groin shortly.
Pettitte will be lost for longer, potentially two months, and so the Yankees will continue to look for Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova to contribute, with David Phelps also potentially in the mix to help with the challenge.
"It's part of it," Cashman said. "The good teams roll through that stuff, so we'll have to find a way to roll through their absence; in the short-term, CC, and the long-term, Andy."
Owning a healthy lead in the American League East, the Yankees certainly have thoughts of preparing for the playoffs in mind, so they figure to be interested shoppers as the July 31 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
They can be expected to listen to proposals as starting pitchers wander into the market. It's likely they would be inclined to steer clear of an expensive bidding war like the anticipated one for the Phillies' Cole Hamels, especially considering their most marketable talent is at the lower levels of the Minor Leagues.
The Cubs' Matt Garza has been one option reported to be on the Yankees' radar for some time now. Cashman has already shuffled the deck of his heavily-worked bullpen with smaller moves, like importing right-hander Chad Qualls from the Phillies, but more moves aren't necessarily seen as imminent.
"We had some guys go down. The pitching has been really good," Sabathia said. "Obviously our lineup is unbelievable. If we pitch and play defense the way we have, we've got a good chance to win the division."
Offensively, the Yankees have leaned on home run production to power most of their victories this year, and that blueprint isn't likely to change drastically.
They do miss the contributions that Brett Gardner was expected to make in left field -- having played just nine games this year at the Major League level because of a nagging right elbow strain -- and are hopeful that he will be able to return, because immediate solutions are not apparent from within the organization.
While veterans Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones have been able to hold the fort and produce, Yankees manager Joe Girardi is also cautious about asking too much of the older players on his roster.
Gardner could still re-join the Yankees in late July, but if he has a third setback while on his Minor League rehabilitation assignment, the Yankees may have to confront the idea that they will not get Gardner back at all in 2012.
"The club is always trying to improve ourselves," Girardi said. "If there's an opportunity, we'll try to do it."
Catcher Russell Martin's sub-.200 batting average has been a targeted discussion point in recent weeks, but the Yankees do not appear to be interested in the catching market. They are fine with Chris Stewart as a backup catcher and have Francisco Cervelli at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in case of an emergency.
The Yankees believe that Martin will be a better offensive player in the second half than he was in the first, but even if he continues to hover around the Mendoza line, Girardi said he believes the Yankees can continue to win with Martin contributing mostly on defense.
"I don't really believe that's going to happen, but we've done it," Girardi said. "The big thing is saving runs. That's the bottom line to me. I don't get too caught up in offense, but I think you'll see a different guy in the second half."