Yankees Start Offseason by Firing Pitching Coach

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP)—The Yankees started a busy offseason Monday, but not with new contracts for manager Joe Girardi or aging icons Derek Jeter(notes) and Mariano Rivera(notes).

Those marquee moves should happen soon enough. No, the first order of business in the Bronx was to fire pitching coach Dave Eiland on general manager Brian Cashman’s first day at the office after a disappointing loss to the Texas Rangers in the American League championship series.

Cashman said the reason for letting Eiland go after his third year on the job was private, but insisted it had nothing to do with the Yankees’ poor performance in the ALCS—New York had a 6.58 ERA in the series.

Eiland guided a staff with five pitchers who had at least 10 wins this season. The bullpen had a 3.47 ERA, third-lowest in the AL. But he was away from the team for almost all of June for an undisclosed personal matter. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey filled in for Eiland when he was away.

“He’s a terrific pitching coach. He should have no trouble getting a job,” Cashman said. “He knows what he’s doing, but as we move forward we’re making a change.”

Eiland started his playing career with the Yankees and just completed his eighth season as a coach in the organization.

“There is little doubt the impact he had on a great number of pitchers during his tenure,” Girardi said in a statement. “He was a passionate and knowledgeable pitching coach on the major league level, and he played a valuable role in our team’s achievements in recent years.”

Eiland’s dismissal came on the same day Boston Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell was hired as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thoughts about a new pitching coach—and the status of the rest of the coaching staff—will have to wait until the manager is re-signed.

Cashman will meet with Girardi’s agent on Tuesday for what he hopes will be a quick process to bring the manager back after his $7.8 million, three-year contract expires on Halloween. Both sides have expressed a desire to continue the relationship.

Girardi is 287-199 with New York, winning the 2009 World Series title after the Yankees missed the playoffs in ’08, his 

first season as Joe Torre’s replacement, for the first time since 1993.

“I love being here. I’ve love working here,” Girardi said. “I want to be back. I hope it gets done quickly.”

That would give him more time to work on some pressing issues before the start of spring training.

Girardi and Cashman each stressed pitching as an offseason priority, but neither mentioned the most coveted free-agent-to-be, Cliff Lee(notes), who has beaten the Yankees three times in the last two postseasons.

“I’m sure we’ll definitely look at the free-agent market pitchers and make some evaluations,” Girardi said, trying to contain some laughter. “I have to be careful about what I say about free agents at this point.”

Despite winning 95 games and leading the majors in scoring, the Yankees sputtered into the postseason, going 29-30 from Aug. 1 on. One issue that money will not be able to solve, however, is how to deal with the aging stars.

The Yankees will most certainly re-sign Jeter, Rivera and Andy Pettitte(notes)—if he wants to return. Alex Rodriguez(notes) is signed until his 40s, and 39-year-old catcher Jorge Posada(notes) has a year left on his contract.

Other than Rivera, who turns 41 on Nov. 29, they all showed signs of slowing.

Jeter is coming off a season in which he hit a career low .270 and turned 36. Pettitte, Posada and A-Rod missed time with injuries—Girardi said Monday that the 38-year-old Pettitte didn’t start Game 2 in the ALCS because he hurt his back in his division series start against Minnesota and needed more time to rest.

“It’s something that when I took this job that I knew that I’d have to deal with down the road,” Girardi said. “I think our players can do it, but maybe not quite at the same pace they did when they were 25 years old.”

Still, they’re wanted back, even if Posada, Jeter and Rodriguez have to begin to deal with diminished playing time.

Girardi said he hadn’t thought about dropping Jeter in the batting order because Jeter hit .334 in 2009 and can still produce.

Cashman agreed, saying “there’s still some game left in that guy.”