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Andy Pettitte, Freddy Garcia and life in the American League

Spoke today with a fiery Brian Cashman, who is getting tired of the questions about Andy Pettitte.

"I've got no updates from Andy to give," Cashman said. "He's told me to move forward without him. It has nothing to do with money, leverage, recruiting or any of that. It's whether his heart's into playing or not.

"Maybe in a month, he'll change his mind. I can't predict it. It's not a baseball issue. It’s a personal issue. We're moving forward as he requested. He's not in it. He's told me not to rely on him, so I'm focusing on what he’s told us.

"The questions (from reporters) shouldn't be about Andy Pettitte. They should be more about more about, 'Any trade or free-agent possibilities?'"

"All right," I said. "Then, any trade or free-agent possibilities?"

"No," Cashman said, with a laugh.

He acknowledged that there was natural skepticism toward a Pettitte retirement, since Pettitte has done the less-offensive-than-Brett-Favre annual contemplation every offseason since 2006-07.

This is the latest into the offseason Pettitte has taken the uncertainty, however. Some of his friends remain convinced that he'll return to pitch for the Yankees, but there's no doubting that Cliff Lee's bolting for the Phillies made the Yankees less likely favorites to win the 2011 World Series and - consequently - decreased Pettitte's determination to return.

In any case, the Yankees don't see any great alternative solutions out there at the moment. Not trades for Tampa Bay's Matt Garza or Gavin Floyd or Edwin Jackson of the White Sox; those clubs can and should ask high since they're still hoping to contend. 

Freddy Garcia? Yes, both the Yankees and Mets, among other teams, have asked for Garcia's medical information. However, Cashman said he wasn't even aware of that, since such a task falls under the responsibility of assistant GM Jean Afterman, who collects the medicals on every free agent.

I can't believe that the Yankees will enter camp without adding someone to their rotation, if not Pettitte himself. Someone will fall through the cracks. And by golly, whatever team falls out of contention early that has a top-flight starting pitcher to spare, that club had best get its scouts onto the Yankees' farm system early and often. Because the Yankees will be ready to pay well, in young talent, for a pitcher they like.

--Another interesting plot line to this Yankees starting pitching situation is that the Rays have suffered even more, having lost Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and (presumably) Rafael Soriano and trading Jason Bartlett, as well. If the Yankees had entered 2009 or 2010 with a pitching staff like this, they'd be viewed as the clear number three team in the AL East.

Now, however, if you put the Yankees' roster against Tampa Bay's roster...it's close, the Rays have the clear advantage in starting rotation, but I think I'd give the Yankees a slight edge overall due to lineup and bullpen.

I'd view the Red Sox as strong favorites to win the AL East at the moment, and the AL wild-card as wide open, with the top suitors being the Yankees and Tampa Bay; the White Sox, Detroit and Minnesota (with one of those teams winning the AL Central)' and the Angels, Oakland and Texas (with one of those teams winning the AL West).

We'll see what the rest of the winter brings, of course, yet with most of the big pieces off the board already, it could be a more entertaining race for the four AL playoff spots than in recent years.

--Have a great night.

New York Sports