Yankees shake things up

August 15, 2008 7:03:22 PM PDT
Slumping center fielder Melky Cabrera was demoted to the minors Friday, the biggest move in a mini shakeup by the struggling New York Yankees as they tried to regroup for a playoff push. The Yankees also designated backup first baseman Richie Sexson for assignment and placed pitcher Dan Giese on the disabled list.

The club brought up three players from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: outfielder Brett Gardner, infielder Cody Ransom and reliever Chris Britton.

"We're doing some tweaking," general manager Brian Cashman said. "These are baseball decisions. The shakeup's got to come from the guys that are expected to perform. Melky Cabrera batting ninth in our lineup is not supposed to be a difference-maker in this club either way. He was supposed to be able to slide right in while everybody else did their job.

"What we need is obviously the guys we're counting on, the guys that are making a significant amount of money, that have significant performance levels, to get the job done as expected.

And I'll throw myself involved in that, too. I want to make sure I'm not pointing fingers. We're all in this thing together," he added.

The speedy Gardner, who was playing well at Scranton, will get a chance to take over the everyday job in center. He batted .153 with one extra-base hit in 59 at-bats for New York earlier this season, mostly as a fill-in while left fielder Johnny Damon was hurt.

"I'm definitely excited," Gardner said. "It's definitely good to get the opportunity to go out there and be that guy."

Gardner was in the lineup Friday night, batting eighth for the opener of a three-game series against Kansas City. Coming off a 3-7 road trip, the Yankees began the night 6½ games behind Boston for the AL wild-card spot.

In the third inning, Gardner threw out a runner at the plate.

"We didn't call him up here to sit," manager Joe Girardi said.

A starting outfielder with the Yankees for most of the past three seasons, the 24-year-old Cabrera got off to strong start this year but has struggled at the plate since May. He was batting .242 with eight homers, 36 RBIs and a paltry .296 on-base percentage.

His playing time had decreased lately.

"We just felt that it was time for him to go work on some things. You can't forget how young Melky is," Girardi said. "We believe that he's a much better player than a .240 hitter."

Girardi said he thinks Cabrera could be more selective at the plate, and they talked about his base running.

"The effort was there but for whatever reason it wasn't translating. Sometimes it can be difficult for young players to get out of a rut at this level," Girardi said. "I can't tell you the exact date that he's going to be back. But I'm confident that Melky's a big league player and that he'll get his stuff right."

Giese was put on the 15-day DL with rotator cuff tendinitis, the same injury Joba Chamberlain has.

After more than a week of rest and treatment, Chamberlain began a throwing program Friday. He made 25 tosses from 65 feet on flat ground and said everything went well. He plans to play catch again Saturday, but there is no timetable for his return to the mound.

"I want to pitch for a long time - I don't want to pitch for a year. So I understand I've got to be patient," Chamberlain said, adding that he doesn't care if he's used as a starter or reliever when he gets back.

Sexson was 7-for-28 (.250) with a grand slam and six RBIs for the Yankees. They signed him July 18 after he was released by Seattle following a season-long slump.

"I believe Richie still has good baseball in him. But I believe Richie's an everyday player and I think it was tough what we were asking him to do," Girardi said.

Ransom, who can also play the outfield, gives New York more versatility on the bench.

In other news, New York's first-round draft pick, pitcher Gerrit Cole, decided to attend UCLA rather than sign with the Yankees.

"We were unable to get off the ground at all with the negotiations. They did not even want to receive an offer," Cashman said. "They made a decision and it was a different one than we would have expected."

Notes: Injured C Jorge Posada joined the team after season-ending shoulder surgery July 30. ... RHP Phil Hughes is slated to start for Scranton on Sunday, while RHP Carl Pavano will pitch for Double-A Trenton. ... High school SS Gordon Lassiter, drafted in the 27th round, agreed to a minor league contract with a $675,000 signing bonus.