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Steinbrenner backs Torre, but expects turnaround

NEW YORK -- George Steinbrenner has spoken: For now, Joe
Torre has his backing to turn around the Yankees following a start
the owner termed "clearly not acceptable."

Torre was joined by general manager Brian Cashman on the team's
charter flight to Texas for a three-game series against the Rangers
that starts Tuesday night. Steinbrenner challenged players and
staff "to show me and the fans what they are made of" and said of
his $195 million team: "I believe in them."


Steinbrenner previously had refused comment on the last-place
Yankees, who went 1-5 against the Boston Red Sox the past two
weekends. New York has lost eight of nine and is last in the AL
East at 9-14. Entering Monday night's games, only Kansas City and
Washington (both 8-17) had poorer winning percentages.


"The season is still very young, but up to now the results are
clearly not acceptable to me or to Yankee fans," Steinbrenner said
in a statement. "However, Brian Cashman, our general manager, Joe
Torre, our manager, and our players all believe that they will turn
this around quickly.


"I believe in them. I am here to support them in any way to
help them accomplish this turnaround. It is time to put excuses and
talk away. It is time to see if people are ready to step up and
accept their responsibilities. It is time for all of them to show
me and the fans what they are made of.


"Let's get going. Let's go out and win and bring a world
championship back to New York. That's what I want."


Cashman, who spoke with Steinbrenner on Monday, canceled a
scouting trip to the Dominican Republic and traveled with the team.


"I appreciate his support and look forward to finding the
solutions to these problems," Cashman said just before the plane
took off. "We intend to find a way to get back on track sooner
rather than later."


Yankees general partner Steve Swindal said the fault for the
start doesn't lie with Torre.


"My feeling is Joe doesn't play on the field. He has to do the
best he can with the players available to him on any given day.
Because we've had so many recent injuries, I just don't feel it's
fair to blame him," said Swindal, who is in divorce proceedings
with the owner's daughter, Jennifer.


"I believe a manager is important to get players motivated to
play, and Joe has historically done that," Swindal added. "You've
got to judge a guy by his record, and he's been successful. There's
no reason why he can't be with this team as well, especially if
they get healthy."


After the Yankees' 4-8 start two years ago, Steinbrenner made a
similar statement.


"Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed, as I'm sure all
Yankee fans are, by the lack of performance by our team," he said
then. "It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in
baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not
playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win and they are
not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and
the team to turn this around."


New York fell as low as 11-19 that year, then rebounded and won
the AL East title on the final weekend of the regular season.


Injuries, especially to Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano, have caused this year's poor beginning. The Yankees have a
5.02 ERA, 27th among the 30 major league teams, ahead of only
Florida (5.13), Texas (5.37) and Tampa Bay (6.01). New York is the
first major league team ever to use five or more pitchers in 10
straight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Two clubs had
done it nine in a row: Boston (2004-05) and Tampa Bay last
September.


Wang returned from a hamstring injury but is 0-2 with a 5.84
ERA. Mussina is due back from a hamstring injury on Thursday night.


Yankees players have backed Torre, saying the blame should be
directed at them. Captain Derek Jeter called criticism of the
manager "unfair" and said "it should stop."


"You go back 100 years: pitching and defense,"
Alex Rodriguez
said. "The team with the best pitching wins. It's as simple as
that."