One day later, there was still a sobering quality to Brian Cashman's voice. He sounded forlorn and fatigued, which was apt. Thursday was a difficult day in Yankeeland, a day when Cashman announced that Michael Pineda had an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder and would miss the next 12 months.
The excitement that Cashman felt after acquiring Pineda from the Seattle Mariners in a four-player trade three months ago had been replaced by the frigid reality that Pineda won't throw a pitch in 2012. So the power pitcher who was supposed to be an essential part of a rotation that could guide the Yankees to the postseason has become a bystander.
"It is what it is," Cashman said. "And it's not good."
Cashman believes that Pineda injured himself on the final pitch that he threw in extended Spring Training last week. After Pineda's setback, Cashman admitted that he wondered "if something was there" and if something was wrong. Cashman said, "You hope you're not going to get that kind of news," but, of course, the Yankees did get the news that Pineda would need arthroscopic surgery.
For the second straight day, Cashman recited the extensive tests that the Yankees did on Pineda's elbow and shoulder, and emphasized that they didn't get a damaged pitcher from the Mariners. Cashman called Pineda's medical records "very clean" and said that Pineda injured himself while he was a member of the Yankees.
"The guy," Cashman said, "was healthy."
As the Yankees move forward without Pineda, they must hope that Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia, who are a combined 1-4 with an 8.68 earned run average, can be much more productive. Hughes's velocity has returned, but he has been inefficient and ineffective. Garcia, who was so reliable last season, hasn't fooled many hitters.
"Our first priority is to get these guys to correct themselves on the run," Cashman said. "You can't expect to pull the plug on them after four starts."
Since Cashman thinks Andy Pettitte needs at least two more Minor League starts before the Yankees will even consider promoting him to the Major Leagues, both Hughes and Garcia are going to get more opportunities. As distressing as Pineda's injury is to the Yankees, it provides a chance for Hughes or Garcia to redeem themselves. While Cashman mentioned David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell as potential options in the rotation, his preference is to see Hughes or Garcia rebound.
In the 365-24-7 world of instant analysis, there are many fans and media members who have already declared the Yankees the losers in the Pineda trade. To get Pineda and 19-year old pitcher Jose Campos, the Yankees moved Jesus Montero, their top prospect, and Hector Noesi. To me, it's a foolish notion to select a winner and a loser in a trade that involves four players who are 24 years old or younger, and a trade where the players have yet to even play one month with their new teams.
If Pineda didn't get injured and won 15 games and had a 3.50 ERA, if Montero hit .240 with 10 homers and if Noesi had a 4-10 record and a 5.50 ERA, it would also be silly to say that the Yankees won the trade. A trade like this takes several years to evaluate, but Cashman accepted the instant analysis of the marquee trade.
"Right now, I understand it," Cashman said. "I understand people are frustrated and they have the right to express their frustration. I'm frustrated, too."
That frustration over losing Pineda will linger, but it can't define the Yankees or throttle the Yankees. Without Pineda, the Yankees still have enough capable starters. It's simply a matter of those starters performing at a higher level than they have this season. Ivan Nova is the only starter that has thrived, as the rotation has a 5.73 ERA and has been a weakness.
In assessing Pineda's loss, Cashman rightfully noted that "this team isn't built around Michael Pineda." With those words, Cashman meant that the strength of the team is "the sum of its parts."
The Yankees are a talented team, a club that should be able to withstand the loss of one talented pitcher.
"My job is to collect assets and pool them together so that we have a winning team," Cashman said. "Unfortunately, one of those assets isn't available. And it hurts. It makes the journey a little tougher."
Follow Jack Curry on Twitter: @JackCurryYES