The Yankees are 11/2 games behind the AL East-leading Blue Jays, and as they prepared for a three-game interleague series with the Braves that begins Friday night in Atlanta, general manager Brian Cashman voiced his concern about their erratic play.
"We're not playing good baseball. That's a concern, period," he said Thursday. "Right now we are playing poorly. We're not swinging the bats at all and that's got to change. There isn't a lot of time left, you know? We have to get back on track and hopefully [Thursday's] off day is just what the doctor ordered. We'll soon find out . . . I'm worried about everything because again, there's not much time on the clock left. We're in the stretch drive now. You got to run your best race now."
Although they entered Thursday second in the majors in runs scored and fourth in home runs, the Yankees were 17th in batting average (.252) and are hitting .218 in August. They have lost five of their last seven games, going 27-for-163 (.166) and scoring 11 runs in the five losses. That follows a team slump from Aug. 5-12 in which they scored nine runs in seven games and went 1-6.
Asked if the team is fatigued, Cashman said, "Am I one for the dog days? This team doesn't handle 16 games in a row very well, let's put it that way. I don't care if that was April, May or June versus August. Sixteen games in a row for this particular team is tough. Probably because of the age. Some of the older position players, it just wears them down."
Alex Rodriguez has gone 11-for-80 (.138) in August to drop from .282 to .255. Cashman does not think he is done at 40, saying, "I think it's a slump. After 26 home runs and the production he's had this year despite his age, I'd say it's more of a slump."
With Rodriguez struggling and Mark Teixeira slow to recover from a bone bruise in his right leg, Cashman was asked if Teixeira might be inserted into the DH spot when the team returns to American League play. That would enable top prospect Greg Bird to play first, but Cashman doesn't think much of that idea.
"That's something our manager could do, but Bird has not swung the bat well since the two-home run game [on Aug. 19]," Cashman said. "He's got a ton of strikeouts the last 10 at-bats, so he's not swinging the bat very well at all right now."
Bird, 22, is 3-for-23 (.130) with nine strikeouts since his two-homer game. He is batting .220 with seven RBIs in 12 games.
The deadline for waiver deals that allow postseason eligibility is Aug. 31, but Cashman does not intend to bring anyone in. "Nope," he said. "We're not going to change any of our top hitters. That wasn't even a need at the [July 31 non-waiver] trade deadline. Our hitting was good."
Cashman said the status of Jacoby Ellsbury, who has a sore right hip, is a "day-to-day situation. We'll have a better feel for it Friday." He also said he expects CC Sabathia (knee inflammation) to return this season. "The MRI we took showed no change from previous MRIs. He doesn't have a good knee. Right now, rest and trying to strengthen it is the option on the table. There is no surgical option that would be recommended in any way, shape or form by our doctors and outside doctors."