Cashman takes heat for rotation woes: 'It's my responsibility'

NEW YORK -- C.C. Sabathia made the Yankees forget their starting pitching problems. For a New York minute or two, anyway.

General manager Brian Cashman was caught for a moment before the game, a 6-2 victory Sabathia delivered over the Tigers, when he had two basic messages about the team's starting rotation.

One was, "It's a friggin' mess right now.'' Friggin' was indeed Cashman's colorful word.

The other was, "It's my responsibility.''

Cashman, always a good one to take the heat, indeed has a surprising early situation on his hands, and while Sabathia's brilliant and efficient four-hit, eight-strikeout innings helped soothe feelings for a day, some of the spotlight is on Cashman, a highly-successful general manager who, shall we say, has taken a few wrong turns, in the starting-pitching arena.

Several have been recounted in the media and on the airwaves here, such as Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Jeff Weaver and Javier Vazquez (twice).

Of course, he's had some major wins, as well, and those include Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and yes, Sabathia, a calm and steady ace who's struggled a bit at times this year with fastball command and even to a degree velocity (it's pretty consistently been between 91 and 92 mph according to the radar readers, down from a 93.8 average a year ago).

Sabathia, of course, isn't a serious worry. He's 3-0 now (though his 4.58 ERA is un-CC-like, if that's a word).

The problems are, of course, Freddy Garcia, who was dispatched to the bullpen with a baseball-worst 12.51 ERA for a starter, and will try to work out his woes there. Plus the perennial prospect Phil Hughes, who is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA, and of course the injured Seattle import Michael Pineda, who's out for the year with a torn labrum.

Cashman can't be blamed for Pineda's torn labrum any more than any other injury that happens on a GM's watch. There was nothing to indicate he was damaged goods when he came from Seattle, and of the thousands who are now killing him for that trade, all but oh, two or three, loved it when he made it.

Cashman also can't be blamed for going with Garcia, who was consistently effective last year, over Bartolo Colon, who was great in the first half before fading in the second. Anyone would have reasonably concluded his miracle surgery was wearing off for the pitcher who skipped 2010 entirely, though Colon has again started this season with a string of brilliant outings.

Garcia isn't a plus, though, and that's fair to bring up. Opposing batters were hitting him at a .403 clip when he was demoted to the pen yesterday to be replaced by David Phelps, a Notre Dame product off to a nice start.

And no, it doesn't look good that an unproven commodity (even one with a 1.07 WHIP so far like Phelps) has so quickly worked his way into a Yankees rotation that was supposed to be about the deepest and most proven rotation in the league.

With their offense and bullpen, the Yankees don't need eight-inning gems like the one Sabathia twirled, either, just workmanlike efforts. But they aren't even getting those, at least not on the days Sabathia and Ivan Nova are off.

Now so much focus is on Andy Pettitte, the great Yankee who missed all of 2011, is 39 years old and is being counted on so heavily now.

Now the Yankees rotation looks anything but certain. It looks like just another top-heavy group, pedestrian at best, at least on days Sabathia and Nova aren't starting.

But Cashman doesn't deserve the heat he's taking, even if he's accepting it.

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