Cashman says he's focused on getting 'team where it needs to be'

Hank Steinbrenner told the New York Post for Wednesday's editions that he was prepared to fix his Yankees "by force" if needed. That could be taken as a threat toward general manager Brian Cashman, but he said Wednesday he's staying focused on the task at hand.

"Concerning my situation, I am completely focused on getting this team where it needs to be," Cashman told The New York Times for Thursday's editions. "It's as simple as that, both on the 25-man roster and beyond."

Steinbrenner tried to light a fire under his below-par team Tuesday when he told the Post that it was time for the team with the highest payroll in baseball to "earn that money."

"The bottom line is that the team is not playing the way it is capable of playing," Steinbrenner told the Post. "These players are being paid a lot of money and they had better decide for themselves to earn that money."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi called a pregame meeting before Wednesday night's game in which the Yankees beat the Rays 2-1. Still the Yankees are 20-21, in fourth place in the AL East and 3½ games behind the first-place Rays.

After complimenting the Rays on their great start, Steinbrenner vowed to the Post that things will get turned around.

"There's no question we need to turn it around and we have the talent to turn it around. We've got the team in place, and now they just have to go out and do it.

"This is going to get turned around," Steinbrenner told the Post. "If it's not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have too."

Cashman wouldn't respond directly to The Times when asked to interpret Steinbrenner's "force" comment. But he did agree with his boss that the Yankees need to play better.

"All I know is, I agree that we're not performing up to our ability for this period of time, and we are better than this," Cashman told The Times. "Every day we take the field, I believe it's the day we're going to be closer to getting back on track. Right now, I believe this is just a bad stretch. We're a good team playing poorly right now, nothing more."

Steinbrenner told the Post for Thursday's editions that he hasn't talked about an extension yet with Cashman, whose contract expires after this season.

"No, I haven't," Steinbrenner told the Post. "At this point we are all concerned with righting the ship."

The Yankees are currently without injured third baseman Alex Rodriguez and catcher Jorge Posada, but Cashman wouldn't use injuries as an excuse for the Yankees' play.

"The facts are that we are missing some important players, but at the same time, we have important players that are not playing up to their capabilities," Cashman told Newsday for Thursday's editions.