Mike Lupica has a no-nonsense piece on Joe Torre in the Daily News today. Lupica reports that Torre continues to be the straw that stirs the Yankees drink:
Torre was asked if he ever knows what to expect before he gets to [spring training in] Tampa.
"I come down here with the same mindset every year," he says. "Nobody is going to --- up my team."
He says this in a calm, even voice, says the words without anger. But he is as serious as a Clemens fastball. Torre could be talking about George Steinbrenner and he could be talking about David Wells, who has suddenly turned into the world's biggest baby, one who acts as if even the current world revolves only around him and his junk book and his hurt feelings. Somehow it is as if Joe Torre knows already, before an official pitch is thrown, that this is going to be a hard season for him all the way.
It only makes him more important to the Yankees than ever.
"I'm not going to let anybody or anything get in the way," Torre says.
..."In the end, the other stuff doesn't matter," Torre says. He nods in the direction of the visitors clubhouse in Bradenton, 10 days before the start of the regular season. "It's still about those guys out there. It's about the players, and the game. At least it's supposed to be."
"I know what I want in the spring, I know what I'm looking for," Torre says. "I know how to do this." He smiles. "If I ever went out there, and after everything they've been through in October and told them, 'We have to win a bunch of games down here,' they'd laugh at me."
They don't laugh. They just play for him, and play hard, and respect him. Maybe the guys who have been around the longest respect him the most. Maybe they understand the Yankees need Joe Torre this season more than ever. Nobody, he says, is going to mess with his team.
As expected, Mariano Rivera, will start the season on the disabled list; he joins fellow-reliever Steve Karsay. Juan Acevedo then, will serve as the closer to start the year.
"If you're going to step into the fire, step into the fire, huh?" said Acevedo, who had 28 saves for Detroit in 2002. "It's weird, but I really try not to think about it."
Yankee GM Brian Cashman is looking for another arm for the bullpen.
The Cincinnati Reds are trying to deal two relievers ¡ª the left-hander Gabe White and the right-hander Scott Sullivan ¡ª and are interested in starter Sterling Hitchcock if the Yankees pay his salary. Cashman said he still wanted to trade Hitchcock, who relieved for two innings in tonight's 5-0 victory over the Phillies.
The Yankees should be able to make due without Rivera for the short term. There is no reason to rush him. But in the long run, it's hard to imagine the Yankees playing far into the playoffs without the charmed Rivera. The Yankee manager tells Mike Lupica:
"It's not just having the arm," Torre said. He points to his head and says, "It's this." He smiles and points to his stomach and says, "And this."
CONE CONTINUES COMEBACK
David Cone had another solid performance last night against the Dodgers. Whether or not he starts the season with the Mets, it looks as if he'll be with the ball club before long.
According to the New York Times:
Mets executives have been encouraged by Cone's progress. They do not want to rush him back and feel he would benefit from taking a regular turn in Class AAA Norfolk's rotation. The Mets do not need a fifth starter right away, so Cone could go long stretches without work. And he needs to pitch to build arm strength.
The prospect Aaron Heilman was reassigned to the minor leagues today, leaving Jason Middlebrook, Mike Bacsik and Jae Weong Seo in the running for the two vacancies in the starting rotation.
David Wells had his best outing of the spring, and just in the nick of time. You know what? I kind of like the corner Wells has painted himself into. I've always liked Wells' game; I enjoy watching him pitch. I could care less about the fact that he's a horse's arse. But now that he's shown how big a horse's arse he is, there is nothing left but his game. I think it'll be fun watching him handle the pressure. What's the worst that can happen? If he blows, they'll trade him, or cut his ass. (Imagine if they demoted him to Columbus? That's be ripe.) If he's good, the only drawback is having to hear him crow again. But let me tell you something: if Wells can manage to win 10-15 games, he can make all the noise he wants. He'll be gone by the end of the year anyhow. Might as well go out with a bang.