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Yankees' shoddy defense surprising Brian Cashman

General Manager Brian Cashman looks on during Carlos

General Manager Brian Cashman looks on during Carlos Beltran's introductory press conference at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 20, 2013 in the Bronx. Credit: Getty Images / Mike Stobe

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Yankees general manager Brian Cashman certainly didn't envision a 3-6 start to the season. The primary culprit, he said Thursday, is easy to pinpoint.

Pretty much everything.

"We have fumbled, whether it's running the bases, defense, starting pitching, the bullpen," he said by phone. "All of it in some form or fashion has factored in the six losses."

But one area, he said, has surprised him the most.

The Yankees have been poor defensively, committing a major league-high 11 errors entering Thursday. Nine came in the first six games.

Coming into spring training, all other questions about the club aside, defense was supposed to be a given.

"We are a good defensive team," Cashman said. "We just had some defensive stuff, which happens. As a collective [the first two series against Toronto and Boston], it was pretty bad. But it certainly goes against the DNA of the club . . . It should self-correct over time."

One player starting to take his share of criticism is Didi Gregorius, whose first week-plus taking Derek Jeter's place hasn't gone well. And it has been particularly striking because righty Shane Greene, one of the players involved in the three-team deal that netted Gregorius, hasn't allowed an earned run in 16 innings in his two starts for Detroit.

Gregorius, who already has heard some "Der-ek Jet-er! Der-ek Jet-er!" chants at the Stadium, has been poor at the plate, hitting .172 with a .219 on-base percentage. That isn't a total surprise, given that the 25-year-old's strength has never been his hitting. But he's committed two glaring miscues on the bases and several in the field.

"He's struggling. You have to call it like you see it," Cashman said. "He had a tremendous camp, on the defensive side especially, and I thought he swung the bat fairly well in the spring. Then when it was lights, camera, action [in the regular season], I have to acknowledge clearly he's struggled . . . But when we acquired him, we said he's a work in progress."

Laying the 3-6 record at the feet of Gregorius simply isn't fair, anyway. As Cashman said, it's been more than defense that has torpedoed the Yankees.

The bullpen, an early strength, imploded Wednesday night in a 7-5 loss to the Orioles. And before that, it was a combination of a struggling offense and even worse defense.

All is not bleak, however. The Yankees entered Thursday tied for third in the majors with 13 homers and tied for seventh in runs with 45.

"I think our offense is starting to produce over the last four games, for instance, but the bottom line is we have to play good defense, we have to run the bases well, obviously hit and be good at run prevention, both in the starting rotation and bullpen," Cashman said. "We have to combine all facets of the game and the win column will be impacted."

Notes & quotes: Brett Gardner had an MRI in Tampa on Thursday, the team announced, that confirmed a bone bruise in his right wrist as previously diagnosed by an X-ray taken Monday after he was hit by a pitch. "Thankfully it's not worse than a bone bruise," Cashman said. "I can't say if he'll be in there Friday. He's just day-to-day." . . . Chris Capuano (quadriceps strain) threw live batting practice at the minor-league complex in Tampa with no apparent problems. After the session, the lefthander, likely still more than a month from returning, worked out for about 20 minutes in the outfield . . . Among those taking swings against Capuano was Jose Pirela, out since March 22 with a concussion. Afterward, the utilityman, who could appear in extended spring games next week, took grounders at third and second.

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