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Baseball

Trouble brewing as Yankees struggle to find any solution

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published July 3, 2005

The Yankees have to do something.

Something big. Something more than ditching ineffective middle relievers and calling up unimpressive minor-leaguers. Something to convince George Steinbrenner his $205-million payroll isn't a total waste and a big joke. Something soon.

"We're open to anything," GM Brian Cashman said. "We're just looking to change where we can."

The bullpen obviously needs help and the rotation is dangerously thin, but after last week's big Tampa summit, it seems likely their first major move will be to obtain a frontline outfielder to relieve Bernie Williams of the embarrassment of trying to play centerfield.

Rumors will continue to fly as deals are discussed, but it appears they are looking at a small group that includes Oakland's Mark Kotsay , Colorado's Preston Wilson , Seattle's Randy Winn , the Mets' Mike Cameron and one of Florida's Juans - either Encarnacion or Pierre .

Kotsay appears to be their top choice, but the A's have been trying to work out a contract extension to keep him, and GM Billy Beane will demand a huge package (reportedly second baseman Robinson Cano and prospects Eric Duncan and Philip Hughes ).

Wilson might be next best, but the Rockies want blue-chip prospects (which the Yankees don't have) and there is strong interest from the Cubs (who do have prospects). The Marlins are usually open to anything but may wait to see if they are in the NL East race. The Mets seem unlikely to give up Cameron unless they get star quality in return.

Which brings us to Winn, the former Rays MVP. The Mariners aren't going anywhere, Winn's $3.75-million salary makes him attractive and his defense would be a definite upgrade for the Bombers.

And just think of this intriguing possibility: The Yankees get Winn, they don't make the playoffs, they dump manager Joe Torre , they want to bring in Lou Piniella and they offer the Rays a trade - for Winn. The same Winn the Rays gave the Mariners in October 2002 to get Piniella.

Whatever deal Cashman is allowed to make, it won't happen soon enough.

Just a mention that they talked to the Mets about trading Gary Sheffield ignited a firestorm of controversy in their already tense clubhouse. Dropping popular veterans Paul Quantrill and Mike Stanton put others on edge. And there is a magazine Web site report (radaronline.com) - which the Yankees deny - that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez had a fight in the clubhouse after the June 20 loss to the Rays.

"Somewhere in April our team bus hit a black cat," Cashman told New York reporters. "We're looking to shake things up and find a way to go in the right direction."

EVEN STEVEN: Whenever Steinbrenner, who turns 75 Monday, steps down, he will be succeeded by his son-in-law, Tampa native Steve Swindal , the team's general partner. Swindal, who turns 51 on July 18, married Steinbrenner's daughter Jennifer , lives in a $1.6-million home on Davis Islands, is an officer of dozens of Tampa-based companies and worked in his family business, Swindal-Powell Wholesale Furniture Co.

IDENTITY CRISIS: After losing three of his last four decisions, Phillies starter Cory Lidle , an ex-Ray, decided to try something different for Wednesday's start. He shaved his goatee, then retired the first 10 Mets en route to a 6-3 win.

"I think they thought I was a callup and they didn't have a good scouting report on me," he said.

HE REALLY HAD TO GO: Mariners reliever Matt Thornton found out the hard way the visiting bullpen at San Diego's Petco Park doesn't have a bathroom. So when he had to go, he hopped a fence and stood in line with fans at one of the regular stadium restrooms.

"Maybe it's just they didn't think of it, or maybe they're trying to be cute," teammate Eddie Guardado said. "It could be tough to pitch well if you gotta go, you know?"

NUMBERS GAME: St. Louis starters had 45 wins in the first 79 games. ... Vladimir Guerrero has hits in all 31 games he has played against Texas. ... White Sox left-hander Mark Buerhle has made it through the sixth inning in 44 straight starts. ... Kevin Millwood has a 3.08 ERA but only three wins for the Indians. ... The Royals scored only 10 runs during a three-game series at Coors Field. ... The Orioles dropped Sammy Sosa to sixth in the order after a 1-for-19 slump. ... The Marlins have used 22 pitchers.

MISCELLANY: The Giants say they are hanging on to ace Jason Schmidt but appear ready to ditch Brett Tomko . The Phillies are contemplating the same with Vicente Padilla and the Royals with Jose Lima . ... The Mariners may move Bret Boone . ... The Fort Worth Star-Telegram put Angels manager Mike Scioscia in its top group of the biggest drama queens in sports, alongside Terrell Owens and Barry Bonds and ahead of Mike Tyson .

[Last modified July 3, 2005, 02:15:16]

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