Pettitte gone, season hinges on the GM

NEW YORK -- This whole Yankees offseason has been all about Brian Cashman. And guess what? The regular season will be too.

Cashman, as blunt as ever, admits that, a little more than a week before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, he doesn't have enough top-of-the-line starting pitchers.

"I will get it fixed," the Yankees general manager said as Andy Pettitte officially waved goodbye Friday.

Cashman knows that the Freddy Garcias, Bartolo Colons and Sergio Mitres of the world are placeholders. He hopes that the inexperienced Ivan Nova, Hector Noesi and David Phelps can help in 2011. And ideally, that his potential future aces -- Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman -- can pitch another year in the minors.

Then Cashman has CC Sabathia's knee surgery, Phil Hughes' trying to put a full excellent season together and A.J. Burnett's head to worry about. So Cashman knows that, with Pettitte retired, his staff is three-fifths full -- at best.

"It's obviously one that is incomplete," Cashman said.

In the near term, Cashman might add a Kevin Millwood or a Jeremy Bonderman to the scrap heap and hope for the best. But it is in October when the Yankees will really miss Pettitte.

Pettitte is hard to replace, but Cashman, correctly, knows he has time to do it. Barring injury, the Yankees can play well enough to tread water in the wild-card race (at the very least) until Cashman can make a move to bring whichever available starter shakes loose in June or July.

At that point, a minor leaguer like David Adams or a Nova can't be the difference in a deal-or-no-deal situation, like they may have been in attempting to acquire Cliff Lee last July.

Since then, the Yankees' season and offseason have gone downhill. Cashman chose not to go into a full-court press for Lee or Pettitte, like he did for Sabathia. The Yankees were as patient as can be with Lee and Pettitte, and it didn't work.

Still, Cashman is not changing his game plan.

"It's going to have to make sense," Cashman said. "That is why when Cliff made his determination I said patience is Plan B. I think people ran with it however they wanted to, but it was a truthful answer. It was a recognition of what is left on the board at the remaining moment in time."

The Yankees know that now is not the time to make a deal. They have to see what they have in the spring. Their scouts say that Colon was throwing 91 mph this winter and can maybe have a throwback season after sitting out last year. Garcia, at 35, had enough guile to have win 12 games last year, one more than Pettitte did.

"Maybe we can run into some things that can obviously help us that will surprise us," Cashman said. "In the same breath you have to wait and have things develop and let things present themselves over time, but at the same time you can't force it. [If you do,] you are going to make mistakes and maybe overpay. I'm willing to take it day-by-day, step-by-step."

But Cashman is going to have to spend a little more in terms of his prized prospects if he is going to find a Pettitte or Lee type before August.

Publicly, he can't admit that the game plan must be altered slightly, but privately he has to realize that the Yankees are going to have to give up a little more. It is good to be disciplined, but at some point this regular season he is going to have to make a call.

Everyone, including Cashman, knows the Red Sox are better right now.

"Yes, on paper," Cashman said. "We are fighting for the same thing. If someone asked me right now, I would say because of the rotation right now -- and we haven't even started yet -- they have a leg up. All I would say, patience is Plan B. I will get it fixed on my end and hopefully give people a different perspective because there is an ebb and flow to this stuff."

The ebb or the flow has not been going in Cashman's direction since last July. He still sounds confident as he talks bluntly. It is his actions from here to July that will likely decide the Yankees' fate this season.

"Sometimes there are some easy quick fixes and sometimes there is a difficult longer road to take," Cashman said. "This will be the more difficult, longer road."