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Monday, April 30, 2007
Steinbrenner backs Torre, but expects turnaround

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- George Steinbrenner has spoken: For now, Joe Torre has his backing to turn around the Yankees following a start the owner termed "clearly not acceptable."

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Torre was joined by general manager Brian Cashman on the team's charter flight to Texas for a three-game series against the Rangers that starts Tuesday night. Steinbrenner challenged players and staff "to show me and the fans what they are made of" and said of his $195 million team: "I believe in them."

Steinbrenner previously had refused comment on the last-place Yankees, who went 1-5 against the Boston Red Sox the past two weekends. New York has lost eight of nine and is last in the AL East at 9-14. Entering Monday night's games, only Kansas City and Washington (both 8-17) had poorer winning percentages.

"The season is still very young, but up to now the results are clearly not acceptable to me or to Yankee fans," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "However, Brian Cashman, our general manager, Joe Torre, our manager, and our players all believe that they will turn this around quickly.

"I believe in them. I am here to support them in any way to help them accomplish this turnaround. It is time to put excuses and talk away. It is time to see if people are ready to step up and accept their responsibilities. It is time for all of them to show me and the fans what they are made of.

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"Let's get going. Let's go out and win and bring a world championship back to New York. That's what I want."

Cashman, who spoke with Steinbrenner on Monday, canceled a scouting trip to the Dominican Republic and traveled with the team.

"I appreciate his support and look forward to finding the solutions to these problems," Cashman said just before the plane took off. "We intend to find a way to get back on track sooner rather than later."

Yankees general partner Steve Swindal said the fault for the start doesn't lie with Torre.

"My feeling is Joe doesn't play on the field. He has to do the best he can with the players available to him on any given day. Because we've had so many recent injuries, I just don't feel it's fair to blame him," said Swindal, who is in divorce proceedings with the owner's daughter, Jennifer.

"I believe a manager is important to get players motivated to play, and Joe has historically done that," Swindal added. "You've got to judge a guy by his record, and he's been successful. There's no reason why he can't be with this team as well, especially if they get healthy."

After the Yankees' 4-8 start two years ago, Steinbrenner made a similar statement.

"Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed, as I'm sure all Yankee fans are, by the lack of performance by our team," he said then. "It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around."

New York fell as low as 11-19 that year, then rebounded and won the AL East title on the final weekend of the regular season.

Injuries, especially to Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano, have caused this year's poor beginning. The Yankees have a 5.02 ERA, 27th among the 30 major league teams, ahead of only Florida (5.13), Texas (5.37) and Tampa Bay (6.01). New York is the first major league team ever to use five or more pitchers in 10 straight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Two clubs had done it nine in a row: Boston (2004-05) and Tampa Bay last September.

Wang returned from a hamstring injury but is 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA. Mussina is due back from a hamstring injury on Thursday night.

Yankees players have backed Torre, saying the blame should be directed at them. Captain Derek Jeter called criticism of the manager "unfair" and said "it should stop."

"You go back 100 years: pitching and defense," Alex Rodriguez said. "The team with the best pitching wins. It's as simple as that."