GM: Yanks 'great' but still 'incomplete'

TAMPA, Fla. -- On Wednesday, Brian Cashman stood by his contention that right now, the Boston Red Sox should be considered the favorites to win the AL East.

But the Yankees general manager -- who grew up in Kentucky and whose parents are in the standardbred racing industry -- was quick to point out that the favorite doesn't always win.

"No one's conceding anything,'' Cashman said. "But because of the winter they had and the winter that I personally had, I think we're the hunter, they're the hunted right now, and I don't think anyone would disagree with that.''

Cashman did his best to try to sidestep providing a response to the words of his co-boss, Hank Steinbrenner, who on Tuesday said it was "insulting to our players'' to consider the Yankees underdogs to the Red Sox, who in the offseason added free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to their already potent lineup.

But while Hank Steinbrenner ate his lunch somewhere other than the ballpark that bears his father's name on Wednesday, his words were still being digested, analyzed and spit out at Yankee camp, and force-fed back to a clearly uncomfortable Cashman.

At one point, the GM even jokingly implored a Yankee publicist to break up the interview, saying "It's getting kind of hot in here. They're trying to wind me up. They're starting to ask the right questions.''

But in the end, Cashman couldn't help but be honest about what he said and what he meant.

"I'm not afraid to be honest with you when you ask me questions,'' Cashman said. "They've [Boston] got the inside pole. That's not selling us short. I think we've got a great team. I do. I like our talent a lot. But I give myself an incomplete. I have more work to do. If I'm insulting anybody, I'm insulting myself."

Cashman failed in his bid to acquire Cliff Lee this winter, but did sign reliever Rafael Soriano as a set-up man to Mariano Rivera, added Russell Martin as the everyday catcher and signed Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez as a backup outfielder and infielder, respectively.

But he was unable to add a top-shelf starting pitcher to a rotation that not only did not add Lee but lost Andy Pettitte to retirement. Cashman is high on several young pitching prospects, including Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos and Adam Warren, but is heading into the season with Ivan Nova, a second-year player with just 42 major league innings on his resume, as his No. 4 starter and a collection of retreads -- Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Sergio Mitre -- vying for the No. 5 spot.

"I like what we have coming, but is it ready right now or not yet for the American League pennant race? We're going to find out,'' Cashman said. "I might have what I need right here in front of me. Or, I might have to weigh it versus when something becomes available at a later time. But what I do have, I'm very proud of. And what I do have is going to compete for that title. Can I make it better? I can make it better. Right now, I give myself an incomplete.''

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.