Cashman: Jeter's big game 'changes the focus'
Yankees GM not concerned over shortstop's slow start at plate
JAMESBURG, N.Y. -- Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Derek Jeter's monster game against the Rangers on Sunday was "desperately what we needed," and expressed hope that it would shift focus away from someone who "has given a lot of other people in that lineup some cover."
"It was a game that I think we tried to do everything we could to put ourselves in a position to not win, but Derek said, 'No way, Jose,'" Cashman said at Monday's inaugural Yankees/New Era Pinstripe Bowl Charity Golf Tournament at Forsgate Country Club. "Do I think he personally needs it? No. Do I think it changes the focus for a period of time? Absolutely.
"We've got about five guys in that lineup who are struggling. He's taking a lot of the questions, or has been for the first month. But in fairness, we've had a little bit of an offensive epidemic. Although we're one of the best offensive clubs, we just haven't fired on all cylinders yet. So I think Derek's name has given a lot of other people in that lineup some cover."
Jeter busted out with his first two home runs of the season on Sunday, going 4-for-6 as the Yankees notched a 12-5 victory in the finale of what otherwise was a tough trip. They went 3-4 and had Monday off before starting a homestand featuring three games against the Royals and then a weekend series against the rival Red Sox.
Cashman is a self-professed duffer on the links, and when asked if perhaps batting coach Kevin Long might have given him some advice on his swing, the GM said with a knowing smile, "K-Long's getting too much work on trying to get his guys untracked."
"[Nick Swisher] has struggled," Cashman said. "[Mark Teixeira] was hot, and then he struggled for a period of time. [Curtis] Granderson is obviously getting hot for us now, but [Brett] Gardner has struggled mightily -- and he's getting hot now. Derek's name has managed to give some other people who haven't gotten off to the starts they're comfortable with some cover. But we have a lot of talent [Nos.] 1 through 9 on this offense, and offense is not going to be a problem for us. It's not going to be a problem for us in the long haul. Pitching is going to be the biggest issue for us to deal with.
"I just think everybody has been trying to find their consistency groove. We have basically had everybody go through those ups and downs. The guys who are down, you expect that they'll come back up, and the guys who are up, some of them are really unusually hot for them at this time of the year, too. It's just the nature of the beast. We've got a lot of talent, and that talent, as long as it stays healthy, will hopefully carry us a long way."
Cashman was asked if he ever "lost confidence" in Jeter during the first weeks of this season, as media and fans whipped themselves into a frenzy. Cashman quickly shook his head.
"No, he's still an above-average shortstop at that position, especially on the offensive side," Cashman said. "I think you've always got to take a step back objectively and analyze it, and realize it's not a position that is plentiful. The best athletes play the middle of the diamond for a reason. The center fielders, the shortstops are the best athletes typically on the field. Derek's been playing that position for a long time, and there's a real good reason for it. We'll be fine with Derek, we'll be fine offensively and the nature of the beast is constantly managing the struggles.
"It's hard to do in New York, because an 0-for 4 in New York is the equivalent of like an 0-for-22 in Kansas City."
West Virginia head football coach Bill Stewart describes himself as a "big Yankees" fan. Stewart said he was sorry to miss Jeter's pair of home runs live, but "saw them on the highlights."
"I'm a Derek Jeter fan," Stewart said. "I'll tell you what, the great ones always rise to the top. He's the greatest player in the game."
Stewart was one of many football coaches playing in the charity event, including Rex Ryan of the Jets, Doug Marrone of 2010 Pinstripe Bowl winner Syracuse, Greg Schiano of Rutgers, Paul Pasqualoni of Connecticut and Brian Kelly of Notre Dame. The Yankees' 2000 and '09 World Series trophies were displayed alongside the last Pinstripe Bowl trophy in the Forsgate clubhouse, as all parties were able to promote the second annual Dec. 30 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium while also raising money for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Pediatric Cancer Center, Public Schools Athletic League, Tourette Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey, and the Boomer Esiason Foundation Fighting Cystic Fibrosis.
Lonn Trost, the Yankees' chief operating officer, stood next to a practice putting green and said one has to take the Jeter questions and answers in stride.
"We have concerns at every position -- every day, every time," he said. "We believe that what happened yesterday is yesterday, and let's go forward, we have to play tomorrow. We have night games starting Tuesday, and then we finish Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, and every one is going to be a battle."
Cashman said it is too early to know whether any tinkering with the roster is required.
"I know that we haven't fired on all cylinders just yet on the offensive side," Cashman reiterated. "Being able to have the off-day here in May, early on, and know we're in first place, it makes you feel like, 'All right, now these guys are allowing us to kick the can down the road until everybody gets on the same page, everybody gets firing on all cylinders.' It allows me the time to fix what ails us, which typically doesn't happen until the June [First-Year Player] Draft.
"No one's running away from us. We'd love to be in position to run away from others, but it hasn't happened. We've got a lot of young talent at the Minor League level that, so far, has got a month or month and a half out of their gate, and they've gotten more experience now at the Triple-A level, and they'll be better served to help us when needed. So far, the first month and week of the season, all good."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.