Cashman talks prospects, Hughes in Lakewood

BareBones and Josh Norris of Minor Matters, far left, catch up with Yankees GM Brian Cashman Wednesday in Lakewood (Photo by David Schofield)

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spent a third straight day evaluating some of the top minor-league position players in the Yankees’ organization Wednesday.
No, Cashman was not scouting Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where top prospect Jesus Montero and 2010 Eastern League Most Valuable Player Brandon Laird are stationed.
Nor was Cashman in Richmond checking out Thunder catcher Austin Romine, or at Class-A Tampa getting the lowdown on infielders Walter Ibarra and Luke Murton, who are hitting .362 and .338, respectively.
With $6.45 million in signing bonuses tied up in three of the top four hitters in the Single-A Charleston lineup, Cashman again traveled to FirstEnergy Park to monitor the Yankees’ considerable investment in 2009 first-round draft pick Slade Heathcott, second-rounder J.R. Murphy and 18-year-old Dominican catching phenom Gary Sanchez, who alone accounts for $3 million of those bonus checks authorized by Cashman.
“You just want to see tools, both internationally and in the draft’’ Cashman said. “Obviously, there are high-end caliber guys here and they need to get their reps in. If the GM is down here seeing them play it lets them know we are connected all the way to the top and that is important. It’s also important for them to know I am following their progress, watching the box scores and reading the player development reports on a daily basis. I care about putting these guys in the best possible position to succeed.’’
Although Cashman had to be thrilled with the results of his center fielder Heathcott (.370, 2 HR) and catcher Murphy (.347, 3 HR) yesterday, when they went a combined 5-for-9 with three RBIs against 2010 Phillies first-round pick Jesse Biddle (0-3, 7.16 ERA) and three Lakewood relievers, the GM clearly was soured by the medical predicament of starter Phil Hughes.
Cashman said his 18-game winner from last season, on the 15-day disabled list with what was initially diagnosed as a “dead arm,’’ went for more tests yesterday after a pair of MRIs Tuesday.
Hughes also is being checked for a possible circulatory disorder, but whatever the ultimate diagnosis Cashman sounded as if he is planning for life without Hughes.
“They are trying very hard to find out what is going on,’’ Cashman said. “It’s always concerning when you don’t have somebody pitching active for you. He’s not active and it does not look like he will be for awhile.’’
In parts of five seasons with the Yankees, Hughes is 31-19 with a 4.46
ERA. He has logged 379 1/3 innings, with 176 1/3 coming last season, after being treated with kid gloves in the minors, particularly with the Thunder in 2006.
Cashman fired former Trenton manager Bill Masse after comments to The Times questioning the organization regarding its cautious handling of Hughes, a talent Masse felt needed to be stretched out more than what the Yankees were willing to do at the time.
Cashman denies the conservative approach to Hughes in the minors could have somehow contributed to his current medical dilemma.
“No,’’ Cashman said. “No chance. We have a general pitching program and obviously it gets specified for each individual. It can be altered because everyone is different physically. They might have different issues, and other things we have to avoid, so you adjust accordingly. Our doctor will continue to run tests and when he collects all the information he’ll be in a better position to diagnose something … if he does find something.’’

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