As the Yankees played sluggishly in April and most of May, Brian Cashman waited. Baseball is a long season. Since Cashman is in his 15th season as the general manager, he could easily recite seasons in which very good Yankee teams sputtered or performed unevenly. That happens.
Even as the starting rotation fizzled and even as the Yankees failed to produce with runners in scoring position, Cashman was patient. He was confident in these Yankees, a message he emphasized during a team meeting on May 22. Cashman told the players he didn’t meet with them because he was panicking, but to remind them that the solutions to the team’s problems were already in the clubhouse.
While Cashman has declined to discuss the meeting, the Yankees have been much better since Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi addressed them. But the Yankees aren’t 16-4 since then because of inspirational words from the g.m. or the manager. The Yankees have been superb for the last 20 games because their pitchers (2.84 earned run average) have excelled and because they have displayed a lot of power (35 homers).
Cashman didn’t fret when the Yankees were mired in fourth-place so he isn’t celebrating now that they are in first place, especially in the middle of June. Again, it’s a long season. Cashman knows that, which is how he remained resolute as the Yankees wobbled through the first six and a half weeks.
“I’ve been through it enough,” said Cashman, on Wednesday. “You believe in the evaluations you’ve made in the players. You believe in the system that you have put in place. We had to trust our track record.”
That trust has been rewarded. There was speculation that Phil Hughes, who starts on Friday against the Washington Nationals, or Ivan Nova could lose their spots in the rotation because of their ineffectiveness. But Cashman and Girardi stayed with them. Now Hughes is 5-1 with a 3.50 E.R.A. in his last seven starts while Nova is 2-0 with a 0.60 E.R.A. in his last two starts.
The Yankees’ rotation has been critical to the turnaround as the starters have gone 9-1 with a 2.13 E.R.A. in June. Oddly enough, CC Sabathia, the ace, is the one pitcher who has struggled lately with a 2-1 record and a 4.29 E.R.A. across his last three starts. Even without Michael Pineda, Cashman said he always believed the Yankees “had one of the better pitching staffs in baseball.”
If Hughes and Nova continue to pitch adeptly, they can make Cashman’s job easier because, presumably, he won’t need to add a starter before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. When I mentioned that theory to Cashman, he didn’t sound like a g.m. who was pondering a trade.
“I have made no phone calls to any general managers about making an acquisition,” Cashman said. “I’d prefer to ride what we’ve got.”
Then Cashman added, “You can’t make moves until you know what you don’t have. I think we have a lot here. I want to find out what we have here first.”
When Cashman explained that he hadn’t contacted any g.m.’s about a trade, that included a possible deal for an outfielder. On Thursday, the Yankees revealed that Brett Gardner’s strained elbow muscle will require about three or four more weeks of rest. Although I spoke with Cashman before the Yankees updated Gardner’s status, Cashman had seemed optimistic about the left fielder’s future.
“I want Gardner to come back,” Cashman said. “I expect Gardner to come back.”
For now, the Yankees, who have their rode pitching and their power, will keep pushing forward without Gardner. It is a long season, something the Yankees have already helped prove.