Gracious as always, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spent about 10 minutes with a large group of media members in the Yankee Club at Waterfront Park following the player development contract press conference.
I was able to fire off quite a few of the questions you’ll see answered below…
You could have put your Double-A affiliate anywhere…what made you initially align with the Thunder in 2003, and what made you want to stick around for as long as it seems like you guys are going to?
Brian Cashman: “Well, Joe Plumeri started the conversations with us. We experienced the Trenton situation with other affiliates and knew it was a great situation. It’s close to the Yankees. They run an unbelievable operation. We knew that all you ever heard about was all the Yankee fans there nestled away down here in Mercer County. It’s just been awesome marriage. There’s no reason not for it to continue. This is home. They’re a part of our family, and I’m thankful they feel we’re a part of their family.”
How did you arrive at extending this through 2022 as opposed to a shorter term?
Brian Cashman: “We have no interest in moving anywhere and we just kind of wanted to solidify it publicly. They kind of mentioned it from their perspective. They’ve always been so accomodating to anything we ever need, so there’s no reason to consider moving anywhere else. This is the best place we could possibly be, and the extension of the PDC is a public recognition of that. I consider this the best minor league operation in all of sports.”
With Tony Franklin being named Eastern League Manager of the Year, that must mean a lot to you guys as an organizaton as well…can you just talk a little bit about him finally winning that award here?
Brian Cashman: Tony’s an ace. He’s such a pro. He’s done so much for our franchise, our players are in great hands with him here. He’s obviously been great here in the community. He’s just got the perfect demeanor for what we’re looking for at this level. Trusting him with our assets at this level has been very easy to do since he came to us.”
Is he at the point in his career where he sort of dictates whether he comes back next season?
Brian Cashman: “Mark Newman has those (conversations) with him. I’m very happy with Tony. But obviously at this stage of the game for him, he’s very happy and doing what he wants to do, but he’ll let us know if this isn’t something that he’s interested in doing anymore. But I think he’s happy, too.”
What specifically does he offer young players?
Brian Cashman: “Well, he’s been in the big leagues and he’s gone through the system…he’s calm, there’s no panic in Tony. These kids, they’re fighting for a career. Their hopes and dreams kind of rise and fall with their performance on a weekly and monthly basis, and you need someone with a steady hand to help guide them through those emotional rollercoasters of competition. He’s got a tremendous personality and leadership to help influence these kids for us.”
Do you anticipate any big league rehabs coming here soon, such as A-Rod?
Brian Cashman: “Alex is going to start a rehab assignment tomorrow in the Florida State League. We’re on the road in Lakeland, so he’ll play through the weekend for our Florida State League affiliate and then we’ll re-evaluate and see where he’s at.”
How about Andy Pettitte?
Brian Cashman: “We’re not even at the point where I can think about that. He hasn’t even got on the mound yet.”
Is Gardner a possibility as a pinch runner?
Brian Cashman: “I don’t think so. I’m not thinking that way at all. If he can’t help us in every aspect, I don’t know if that’s going to help us. We’ve got to be comfortable putting him out there on the defensive side, because if it goes extra innings, it’s not something we’re looking at.”
At this point of the year, it’s an interesting time with September call-ups…how do you determine which players you call up now and which ones you wait for until their seasons are done?
Brian Cashman: “It’s all hands on deck. We’re obviously in a race, and it’s tight. So I’m going to call up whoever I feel we can utilize now. That’s as simple as that. We’ve already gone through that with our staff. We haven’t announced who it’s going to be, but we know who we’re going to do on Saturday.”
There’s obviously a lot of players on this Thunder roster who have stood out all season here…but who are the guys who have stood out to you or the organization that are here?
Brian Cashman: “Well we’ve got some guys, especially Montgomery. He’s a guy that we promoted, and he’s someone that I’ve been following. I think he’s got a pretty wicked slider that can move pretty quick through the system, not necessarily this year. He’s one guy right off the bat — we have other guys too — but Montgomery is someone that I think is knocking on the major league door here in the next year or so.”
It seems like Dellin Betances has regressed this season…is it safe to say that he’s a guy that you would have hoped would have helped you at the big league level this year?
Brian Cashman: “Yeah, I thought he could. But, baseball’s a difficult game, and yeah he’s obviously struggled with his command this year and he’s obviously on the DL. It’s been a disappointing year for Dellin, but it doesn’t change his ceiling and it doesn’t change his potential. Prospects are suspects, and he’s in the prospect category that had a suspect season.”
How do you guys view him in the future in terms of starting or relieving?
We’ve talked about all that stuff, but we just want to get him healthy first. Obviously, guys who are failed starters become relievers. He’s got a number of weapons that, if he can command them, he’d be a candidate for a rotation spot. But if he can’t, obviously he’ll go to the bullpen.”
Has anybody in this organization who was under the radar kind of come out of nowhere to make a mark in the system this year?
Brian Cashman: “I think earlier it was Tyler Austin. He just catapulted himself up the prospect list with what he did down in Charleston and obviously carried it up into Tampa. He has to have the high mark…he was a prospect, but now he’s made himself a mega-prospect.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com