After Steinbrenner lashes out about Joba's future, Cashman fires back

Updated: April 21, 2008, 10:23 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, like his father George, has never been one to mince words. When it comes to where pitcher Joba Chamberlain should be -- the bullpen or the starting rotation -- the younger Steinbrenner's expectations are crystal clear.

"I want him as a starter and so does everyone else, including him, and that is what we are working toward and we need him there now," Steinbrenner told The New York Times. "There is no question about it, you don't have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a set-up guy. You just don't do that. You have to be an idiot to do that."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman apparently disagrees.

"Joba's staying in the bullpen right now," Cashman told Newsday on Monday. "That's where we're at. [Putting him in the rotation is] not something that's going to happen here early on, and [Hank] knows that. We've talked about it. I don't know what set him off."

On Monday evening, Steinbrenner toned down his comments.

"We're not going to rush him," the New York Yankees co-chairman said at the team's spring training complex. "I think most people agree with me, including the baseball people and most of the fans, that sooner or later it would be nice if he was a starter."

Cashman then said that the two had come to a meeting of the minds.

"Hank and I talked. We didn't need to," Cashman said. "We were on the same page yesterday. We're on the same page today. And we're on the same page moving forward. Joba Chamberlain is bullpen because it's where he's needed the most right now as well as because he has an innings limit. He can't start because of that innings limit or he'd have to stop starting here at some point."

Cashman expects the switch to the rotation to come sometime this year.

"He'll finish out as a starter. He won't start as a starter," the GM said.

Earlier in the day, Cashman said it's too early to make any drastic changes.

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"If you had bet on the kids doing great out of the gate, it wouldn't necessarily be a safe bet, but we're betting on them in the long term, not necessarily in the short term," Cashman told Newsday. "We're certainly not playing up to our capabilities after 20 games … we made our decisions [in the offseason] and our season is now under way. It's way too early to start making judgments on anything."

Steinbrenner has high expectations for Chamberlain, comparing his potential to that of Boston ace Josh Beckett.

"We need a Beckett, we don't have one, and he's the one that can do it." Steinbrenner said.

Through Sunday's games, the Yankees stand at 10-10 and are closer to the bottom of the AL East than the top. New York is three games behind division-leading Boston and just 1½ games ahead of cellar dweller Tampa Bay.

Steinbrenner also took issue with how the Yankees handled Chamberlain's situation last season, before the eldest son of George was in a position to make changes.

"The mistake was already made last year switching him to the bullpen out of panic or whatever," Steinbrenner told The Times. "I had no say in it last year and I wouldn't have allowed it. That was done last year, so now we have to catch up. It has to be done on a schedule so we don't rush him."

Chamberlain, who had missed five games to be with his sick father in Nebraska, returned to the Yankees on Saturday. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Yankees' 6-0 loss to the Orioles. Chamberlain said his father was doing much better.

Steinbrenner didn't seem worried about the rough early going for young starters Phil Hughes (16 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings) and Ian Kennedy (15 earned runs in 14 innings).

I want him as a starter and so does everyone else, including him, and that is what we are working toward and we need him there now. There is no question about it, you don't have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a set-up guy. You just don't do that. You have to be an idiot to do that.

-- Hank Steinbrenner on
Joba Chamberlain

"I think once Hughes and Kennedy get plenty of starts and we get Joba back, and with [Chien-Ming] Wang and [Andy] Pettitte, we will be fine," Steinbrenner told The Times.

The one name missing from that list is current starter Mike Mussina. Steinbrenner also had a suggestion for the starting pitcher who has 251 victories in an 18-year career.

"[Mussina] just needs to learn how to pitch like [45-year-old Phillies pitcher] Jamie Moyer," Steinbrenner said, according to The Times. Moyer is known as a crafty pitcher who doesn't have an overpowering fastball.

In the offseason, Steinbrenner had lobbied for acquiring two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who eventually was traded to the New York Mets prior to the season.

"The starting rotation is not what I would have chosen at the beginning of the year, but that is not a big news flash to anyone," Steinbrenner said in The Times.

The Yankees were down another reliever.

Kyle Farnsworth is appealing a three-game suspension announced Saturday for throwing a pitch behind the neck of Boston slugger Manny Ramirez last Thursday.

"I do know for a fact that Farnsworth did not intend to throw it exactly where it went, that close to behind his head," Steinbrenner said. "That's not what he intended. I thought Manny handled it with class, his response. Kyle is doing his job, backing his team. But he did not intend to put it in that spot."

Ramirez told Boston-area reporters he thought that Farnsworth did not deserve the suspension.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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