Brian Cashman answered the phone Monday afternoon and was asked how he was doing.
“I’ve been better, actually,” he said.
These are tough times for the last-place Yankees and the general manager who built what he believed was a playoff team coming out of spring training. The Yankees are 8-15 and have lost five in a row going into Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series in Baltimore.
They aren’t hitting, the starting pitchers don’t go deep into games, Dellin Betances gave up game-winning home runs twice in the just-concluded weekend sweep by the Red Sox in Boston, and manager Joe Girardi looks as if he’s about to chew through his binder.
Cashman, though, said he’s not ready to order a “code red” when he meets the team (as he already was scheduled to do) Tuesday at Camden Yards. The only specific change he mentioned was more playing time for outfielder Aaron Hicks, who is batting .077 and just returned from a shoulder injury.
“It’s been extremely frustrating because I’d say most of our roster has underperformed at this point,” Cashman said. “And it’s a head-scratcher. We’re certainly better than this. But that’s where we’re at right now.”
Of the potential options to shake things up, Cashman dismissed the most radical: firing a coach such as hitting instructor Alan Cockrell or even Girardi, who has one year left on his contract.
“No,” Cashman said when asked if either of those moves is a possibility.
He also ruled out dipping into Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as he famously did during a similarly slow start around this part of the season in 2005, when he called up young pitcher Chien-Ming Wang and a young second baseman named Robinson Cano from the Columbus Clippers.
Cashman and Joe Torre also moved second baseman Tony Womack to leftfield and Hideki Matsui from left to center and made longtime centerfielder and franchise icon Bernie Williams into a part-time designated hitter.
Those Yankees went 95-67 and won the AL East.
But that was then.
“I would say that the current roster needs to heal itself currently more so than looking at Scranton to heal it,” Cashman said.
So what is the plan?
“We’ll pursue every option and continue to dialogue with everybody involved about whether it’s lineup changes, stay the course, whether it’s give some people longer rope or not,” Cashman said. “As of right now, everybody’s got to realize they’ve got to sing for their supper, and that means performing. They’re certainly capable. They’ve done that for years. If that doesn’t happen over time, alternatives will have to materialize.”
It’s not exactly a “hit-or-sit” ultimatum, but Cashman eventually will lose patience if the underperforming continues. For now, he’s just looking for the Yankees to start playing up to their pedigrees.
“Because you can’t lose perspective,” he said. “We did take a look at — as bad as it feels and as bad as it looks, and that’s all real — we did this three times last year, twice in 2012 and four times in 2010. Stretches of 8-14 over a 22-game period is something that occurs, unfortunately. We’ve got to stop the bleeding and we’ve got to start winning games. And the only way to do that is to play better.
“We’ve had a number of issues, whether it’s underperformance, whether playing short because got hurt, whether it’s not hitting with runners in scoring position. You know, our record could flip-flop if we had six hits over the course of the month of April with runners in scoring position at the right time. If we got those hits, maybe that record’s completely flipped. But that’s not the case, and the case is we’re not hitting, we’re not pitching well enough, and therefore our record is what it is. Right now we’re in possession of one of the worst records in the game for a team that’s stronger than this.”
Notes & quotes: Cashman said there is nothing new on top prospect James Kaprielian, who is resting a sore elbow after dominating in his first three 2016 starts . . . In a separate interview on WFAN, Cashman said the Yankees think Betances might have been tipping his pitches over the weekend when he allowed a pair of first-pitch home runs to the Red Sox . . . Alex Rodriguez’s house in Coral Gables, Florida, will be featured in the upcoming issue of Architectural Digest. The 11,000-square-foot house features an in-ground trampoline and indoor basketball court for A-Rod and his two daughters.