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Cashman: Pitching staff 'Still an area of concern'

Without veteran right-handers Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, the New York Yankees wouldn’t be tied for first place in the American League East.

General manager Brian Cashman knows that. That’s why he called their surprising contributions a “gift from above.”

However, it doesn’t mean Cashman isn’t looking to upgrade his pitching staff if the opportunity presents itself.

“We lost Andy Pettitte, didn’t get Cliff Lee and our 18-game winner Phil Hughes has been out for a significant period of time,” Cashman said during an ESPN 1050 interview on Tuesday afternoon. “So our pitching with the development of Ivan Nova, the emergence of Colon and Garcia giving us quality starts, all of those things are awesome. The question is, are they real? Are they sustainable? That’s why I say our focus is on pitching. We’ve had some nice surprises, but it’s still an area of concern for me.”

Cashman also was asked to give his assessment of enigmatic setup man Rafael Soriano, who has certainly had a tumultuous first season in pinstripes so far. Soriano, who is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA has had a difficult time transitioning from being a closer to being the “eight-inning guy.”

It was well-documented that Cashman didn’t want to bring Soriano to the Bronx. He said he’d rather keep the team’s first-round draft pick than have to give it up in order to pay a premium price for a relief pitcher. But Cashman was overruled by Yankees executives, who ended up inking Soriano to a three-year, $35 million contract with an out-clause at season’s end.

“It’s not too different than Jorge Posada dealing with the DH role,” Cashman said of the adjustment. “It’s a little less of an adjustment, but an adjustment nonetheless, asking a closer to pitch the eighth. The adrenaline not the same. When the game is on the line, there’s a one-run lead and the home crowd is behind you or you’re fighting against the crowd on the road, a lot of these individual closers thrive on that. When that doesn’t exist, not to make an excuse, I think there’s an adjustment period. He used to do that, but after climbing to the top of the mountain [to close games for the Tampa Bay Rays] it’s just not just that easy [to go back].

“Sori is still finding his way and I think he’s gonna be an asset for us, but there’s gotta be some growing pains before you can get there.”