ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Brian Cashman said he isn't concerned about what appeared to be a lukewarm endorsement from Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
"It's the process," Cashman said by phone Thursday. "I'm used to it. I've been through it before. All my previous deals weren't done until my contract expired. I take nothing from it other than that's the process."
Cashman's three-year, $9-million contract expires after this season. When asked about the general manager's future on Wednesday, Steinbrenner didn't offer much in the way of praise.
"No,'' Steinbrenner said of whether any decisions have been made regarding Cashman, who has been the Yankees' GM since 1998. "We're so busy right now trying to figure out who's going to be playing in any given game. We'll be talking about that soon enough. But you know me, we have enough things to worry about during the season. That's where our focus needs to be."
Asked if Cashman's keeping his job is contingent on making the playoffs, Steinbrenner didn't bite. "Let me get to October,'' he said. "Hopefully, the end of October, the beginning of November, and we'll go from there.''
The Yankees, losers of four straight entering Friday night's opener of a three-game series against the Rays, are a long shot to get there. They trail AL East-leading Baltimore by eight games and Detroit, which holds the second wild card, by four games. "We're not where we want to be and we have a short time to get where we want to be," said Cashman, whose team has 43 games left.
It is no secret why the Yankees are on the outside looking in. They've shown little consistency since the All-Star break, putting together consecutive streaks of 7-1, 1-5, 6-1 and 0-4, with the only consistent element a lack of hitting. In their last four games, they have scored seven runs -- two of which were handed to them when the Orioles committed two errors on a double steal Monday night -- and when they recorded six hits Wednesday night, it was one more than they managed in each of their previous three games.
"Our offense has struggled all year," Cashman said. "The offense has been anemic most of the time, which is frustrating."
"We'd like to come out here and score 10 runs every day. That's not the case,'' Derek Jeter said Wednesday. "Guys have pitched well against us. Yeah, we'd like to score more, but it's not as easy as it looks. We have to find ways to score runs, but we more importantly have to find ways to win games. If you don't score runs, you have to win other ways. We need to play better.''
The most candid words to emerge from the clubhouse Wednesday came from Shawn Kelley, who allowed a tiebreaking three-run homer by Adam Jones in the eighth inning of the Yankees' 5-3 loss to Baltimore. He quickly backtracked from them, but his initial thoughts on where the Yankees stand painted the most accurate picture.
"I think we were more looking at the second wild-card spot. That's a little bit better number that seems a little more achievable at this point," said Kelley, although he later added: "I don't think anybody in this locker room would say [the AL East title is] out of reach right now.'
Francisco Cervelli wouldn't hear of conceding the division.
"We're going to fight and we're going to win some games," he said. "This is not over yet."