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Brittle-looking Yankees have sudden holes, few options to fill them
By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 14, 2006
Whether they want to admit it yet, the Yankees are in trouble.
A lineup billed as unstoppable is missing two major consistent producers. A pitching rotation touted as solid looks very pedestrian. An organization built only to win may not have the trading pieces to do anything about it. An owner said to be mellowing is getting rather cranky.
And a team that was supposed to be the best in baseball isn't the best in its own city, with the Mets stealing the back-page headlines.
What was supposedly the world's greatest lineup was exposed to have some flaws even before losing two of its most clutch producers. Gary Sheffield is out indefinitely with a sore wrist and, some say, bruised feelings over the lack of a contract extension, while Hideki Matsui is likely to miss most, if not all, of the season with a broken wrist.
"That's two to three runs a game," centerfielder Johnny Damon said. "And that's quality at-bats that give us more and more chances to succeed."
The Yankees insist - for now - they plan to fill the voids from within, saying all the right things about how this gives young players an opportunity, and so on.
"I don't anticipate, at this point in the season, anything making too much sense right now," GM Brian Cashman said in New York. "Let's find out, first and foremost, if we don't have the answer in-house."
Let's. But it's hard to imagine them going too long with the corner outfield spots manned by a combination of Melky Cabrera, Bubba Crosby and the player who used to be Bernie Williams. And that's assuming the occasionally fragile Damon can stay on the field in centerfield.
Names of potential replacements are circulating, though the determining factor in how big a deal the Yankees make will be how long they think Sheffield will be out.
Bobby Abreu could make sense, though the Phillies seem to have a good thing going. Torii Hunter or Shannon Stewart could help, but the Twins might not be ready to give up yet.
Washington's Alfonso Soriano, a former Yankee, could be a good fit. So could Kansas City's Reggie Sanders, Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff, Washington's Jose Guillen and a half-dozen others.
"The way this team operates," Williams said, "I think we can expect to see them go out and get another outfielder."
But that's the Yankees' next problem.
They don't have much to trade, and they might need to keep their options open to later bolster the sagging rotation which, without a dominant Randy Johnson, can be stunningly unimpressive after Mike Mussina, with Shawn Chacon, Chien-Ming Wang and Jaret Wright. They might have some bullpen depth when Octavio Dotel gets healthy; otherwise they have at best a couple of marketable prospects.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: The Rays' next two guests at the Trop are the best (White Sox) and worst (Marlins) teams in the majors, and both are working hard at furthering their status.
"You get tired of seeing mistakes repeated," Marlins rookie manager Joe Girardi said. "The effort has been pretty good for the most part, but you also have to use your brain."
CURT REPLIES: Boston's Curt Schilling can - and will - say whatever he wants, but the numbers say plenty. He was 4-0, had a 1.61 ERA and allowed 17 hits over 28 innings in four starts before throwing 133 pitches on a chilly April 25 in Cleveland, and since then is 1-2, has a 6.20 ERA and allowed 31 hits in 242/3 innings. "Just not pitching well," he said.
NUMBERS GAME: The Cubs are 6-15 since Derrek Lee got hurt and looking at Baltimore's Jeff Conine to help. ... Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera has nine errors in 32 games and reportedly gained 20 pounds since last season. ... Andy Marte, the top prospect sought by the Rays but traded to Cleveland, has one homer in 33 games at Triple-A Buffalo.
MISCELLANY: Some New York media now refer to the Scott Kazmir- Victor Zambrano trade as the second worst in Mets history after the 1971 deal that sent Nolan Ryan and three others to the Angels for Jim Fregosi. ... The Dodgers appear serious about abandoning their historic Vero Beach spring training base and moving to Arizona, perhaps sharing with the White Sox in Glendale starting 2008. ... The Marlins - no surprise - will not meet San Antonio's Monday deadline to commit to relocating as efforts to build a new stadium in South Florida continue to limp along. ... It looks like Royals GM Allard Baird, a nice man who attended St. Petersburg College, will take the fall for the team's continued poor showing.
Information from other news organizations was used in the report.