- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- Having finished second, or maybe third, in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, the Yankees are prepared to go into the 2011 season with a pitching rotation of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes , with the remaining spots filled out by youngsters, many of whom have never pitched above the Triple-A level.
"I'm not saying I want to do it," general manager Brian Cashman said in a telephone conversation Monday morning, "but I may have to do it."
Cashman is operating under the assumption that Andy Pettitte, back home in Deer, Park, Texas, following a an excellent season cut short by a groin injury, will not be returning for a 17th major league season.
"If we get Pettitte back, so much the better," Cashman said. "But I'm not waiting for him. He told me not to."
With Lee having signed with the Phillies, Pettitte mulling retirement and Zack Greinke being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, the pickings are slim among available starting pitchers -- with the exception of Carl Pavano, a free agent whose disastrous first Yankees tenure rules out the possibility of a second.
Cashman acknowledged his team could use a major league ready starter as well as another arm in the bullpen but seemed pessimistic about the chances of getting one before Opening Day.
"Could I go out and get a starter? Yes, I could. But there's just not much out there," Cashman said. "I have March, April, May, June and July, really, to come up with someone."
Cashman also ruled out, although not absolutely, the possibility the Yankees might include catching prospect Jesus Montero in a trade for a front-line starter now that the Yankees have signed Russell Martin to assume every-day catching duties. "There's just nobody out there I would consider trading Montero for," Cashman said.
So heading into spring training, Cashman said the Yankees would try to cull two starters from a young crop that includes Ivan Nova, who is virtually assured a spot in the 2011 rotation, as well as right-handers Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Hector Noesi and left-hander Manny Banuelos.
Of the six, only Nova has pitched at the major league level, appearing in 10 games the second half of last season (seven starts), and compiling a 1-2 record and 4.50 ERA but displaying enough stuff and poise that the Yankees are counting on him to fill one of the starting spots.
None of the others has pitched at a higher level than Double-A, and Banuelos and Betances, who had ligament reinforcement surgery in 2009, spent last season in Class A ball.
"We have 10 prospects starting from Double-A on up that our organization can choose from," Cashman said.
The GM ruled out a return to the rotation for Joba Chamberlain, who along with David Robertson will compete for the job as eighth-inning set-up man vacated when Kerry Wood became a free agent. Over the weekend, Wood signed a contract to return to the Chicago Cubs.
Cashman declined to say whether he was interested in free agent right-hander Freddy Garcia. According to a report, the Yankees asked for the medicals on the 35-year-old Garcia, who was 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA for the White Sox in 2010.
"We ask for the medical records on every free agent," Cashman said.
So for now, the Yankees are standing pat.
"In the past, we might have gone out and traded away prospects just to get someone in here," Cashman said. "But realistically, I have until July to get this solved."
1mJesse Rogers and Jerry Crasnick
20hTony Lee, Special to ESPN.com