Winter Meetings interview with Brian Cashman

THE MODERATOR: I guess we can start by going through our beat guys and then open it up to everybody and start with questions.

Q. (No microphone)?

BRIAN CASHMAN: Well, I don't have the specific dates, but Alex went out to see Dr. Philippon out in Colorado earlier this month, had an evaluation. I guess I should wind the clock back right to the playoffs and just start from there to be honest.

In the playoffs when Joe Girardi went to Alex in the dugout, up to this point there was no complaints of any nature at all from his hip, or anything really. He wasn't getting any treatment on anything.

At that point Joe went to Alex in the dugout and said I'm going to pinch hit for you and we're going to pinch hit Ibañez, and Alex said to Joe at that moment, okay, he said, I've got to talk to you about something. I think my right hip needs to be looked at. I just don't feel like I'm firing on all cylinders, something to that effect. No complaint of pain or anything of that nature. So after that Oriole game, Alex went to the hospital that night to get an exam, an MRI to his right hip, which was clean.

So he went down to Baltimore and continued the decision making process of when to play him, not play him. But we felt comforted that he was clean on the exam on his right hip, which is what he raised to Girardi in that dugout that day.

And we moved forward. As a player that was available to us and at full go. But we had to schedule as we do every winter to have him looked at in Colorado, and he did that. I don't have the date with me here, and at that meeting with Philippon, they did redo the MRI. The right hip was fine but he had discovered the left hip was a problem, that despite being asymptomatic in terms of pain and things of that nature, that the left hip had indeed, what the press release has provided today, a labrum tear with some other things, and it was the recommendation that he needs to have surgery.

So we had Alex see also Dr. Bryan Kelly in New York at HSS, Hospital For Special Surgery to be evaluated by Kelly as well as our team doctor, Dr. Ahmad on the left hip because it was a completely different circumstance, and that was confirmed that indeed the left hip would require surgery. So we are now in the process of him getting rehabilitation in preparation for that surgery, and he will have surgery, and it will take him out four to six months from surgery.

Q. How do you proceed at this point? How do you see your next move? Do you have to find an everyday third baseman, or are you just looking for a stop guy? What do you do from here?

BRIAN CASHMAN: Well, I do expect Alex back. Alex will -- first and foremost, I do think that it's a likely scenario that the struggles we saw in September and in October are more likely than not related to this issue. Clearly Alex was dealing with an issue that although he might be asymptomatic but the lower half and the way the mechanisms work, he wasn't firing on all cylinders. There was times that we thought watching him that he was all arms and no legs, but again, there was no complaints, no pain, and then actually in the Playoffs when he got pinch hit for, he did have a complaint that he felt his right hip wasn't working right, and that was all clear.

But I do think that this gives a real indication of something that he was struggling through, although sometimes you find out later on that your body is going through stuff that might not necessarily declare itself at the appropriate time. And so eventually obviously with the findings of the MRI you start piecing it all together, it makes sense that obviously this is something that was hindering him, even though you couldn't put a finger on it.

What do I do here? First and foremost, I've been aware of this situation for quite some time. Thankfully until last night at the rappelling event no one specifically asked me about Alex and his hip. Prior to that it was I hear you're going to DH him and we've had no decisions about DHing Alex. I hear you might trade him; we're not trading Alex. It wasn't until yesterday that the first question was ever specified about how is his hip. He has a hip conditions on both ends, and we'll be looking at those hips on a yearly basis.

And the surgery obviously in the right hip was very successful, and as we expect the surgery on his left hip to be the same.

Where do we go from him? It's a long winded answer. I'm going through the winter, my sole interest is just improving the entire club. Whether we solve any issue specifically at that position of third base, I can't really answer. It's been a process for us obviously to first and foremost catch up, confirm the medical diagnosis that was first found in Colorado. We have done that. We have had a lot of dialogue with Alex who's working very he's started the rehab process now to strengthen himself for the surgery that's required as a prerequisite, I think that's contained in the press release, so it's about four to six weeks of potential physical therapy that he has to necessarily go through to prepare for the surgery, and then about a four to six month recovery time. So Alex is expected back. That's the good thing. The bad thing is obviously we don't have him for a period of time, so what are we going to do about that? Remains to be seen. Just not going to, again, overreact. It's a significant circumstance; I understand that. But I've been engaging with the trade and free agent market and listening, and we will act accordingly. Just no different than we've done in the past.

The smallest examples are, hey, we lost Brett Gardner during the season. We thought we were going to get him back and we didn't. We'd wind up with a short term fix on a trade with Seattle, so we'll just continue to act that way where it something makes sense, we'll become very aggressive with it. If it doesn't, we will just sit back and be patient on it. I think that's something that's served us well thus far and hopefully will continue to deserve us well.

But it's a serious circumstance. I think Alex has a lot of peace of mind because that was a very difficult time for him. Separately, it was a difficult time for us as a team because we didn't perform collectively in that playoff on the offensive side. The pitching did their job, the offense didn't. There was a lot of players involved; Alex took the brunt of it and I think he's got some peace of mind now having an explanation of why. Why did I not perform to the level I was capable of, and I think this is a real indication of why in his case.

I'm going to continue to work at it, as I've been doing.

Q. You have a left side of the infield, two players in their late 30s, both of whom are going to be coming off of surgeries. Does this become a must do in your mind, something you need to accomplish between now and then to get some insurance for the left side?

BRIAN CASHMAN: Well, I'd rather not say must. I'll just say we will try to accomplish upgrades where practical. But if it's not practical, then we're not going to do it.

Derek Jeter is going to be back. He will recover from his surgery and he'll be ready to go by Opening Day, and Alex obviously will be back at a time to be determined in that four to six month category. I'd say safely it's better to predict the six month than the four, so what do we do in the meantime? We'll see. We'll have our conversations and we'll continue to have those conversations, and those conversations have started. I know some people have gotten wind of maybe conversations we've had with agents specifically, and the answer to that was, hey, we're just checking off of our what ifs column. What if we don't have guys for a period of time. What I do every winter.

We actually know in this case on the front end we're going to have a problem that we're going to deal with and a player that's going to be missing for a period of time, but he'll be back. The bottom line is our job is to improve the entire product on that field. We've had some significant losses in the free agent market on the position player side and some who have signed like Russell Martin elsewhere and others who are still on the board, and there's a marketplace via trade and free agency out there, and we're going to continue to look at every aspect of it, ways to improve our club in a creative way, and I don't think there's anyway I'll separate differently personally. I'll make my recommendations, I'll run every conversation I have up the flagpole, and where that leads us remains to be seen. But I do know that I'm certainly not afraid of this challenge or any challenge that comes our way. We've dealt with a lot of things over the years, and we'll continue to deal with them as they come.

Q. This is now two major surgeries for him. What tells you he can still come back and be an everyday third baseman, or do you have to consider that he might be a DH going forward? BRIAN CASHMAN: I don't think there's restrictions that have been placed by the operating physicians on these issues. It's just, hey, he's got a problem that needs to be fixed, it can be fixed. The proof in the pudding is the right hip looks terrific still when that was fixed from the surgery. Now the left hip needs to be fixed. These are some of the greatest Dr. Kelly has got a great reputation, and so I have full confidence that between the operating physician and the expertise that comes with that and the patient whose work ethic is legendary that this will all work out over time. But right now time is a problem. We're going to be missing him for some time. We will deal with that.

And again, I point to different times. I'm not saying that I'm not going to try to blow it off. It's a significant blow. But we've dealt with significant blows and hopefully we'll be able to deal with this one, as well. We've missed significant players for periods of time, and it's our job to find a I way to withstand all those. That's part of the baseball season. This is frankly at least some of this time will get soaked up in the wintertime and in Spring Training before the games really count, but obviously in April, May and June, if I predict the longer rather than the shorter so those three months will be Alex Rodriguez less, and we will not be better for that, because despite obviously a lot of the noise that gets surrounded with this particular player, when he's healthy and we can run him out there, we are significantly better franchise for it.

We will wait for Alex. We will cushion the blow. We will shore up every aspect that we possibly can and try to get the remaining players that we have, like a Derek and most anybody else, CC, recovering from their surgeries, and we will take care of them, get them going in the right direction and try to add to what I feel prior to this public announcement we've had a successful winter run so far with our pitching acquisitions.

Q. Does the fact that he had already had one side repaired and he had the injury on that, did that make him more susceptible from what the doctors have told you, and will that make any complications in his rehab going forward, that he has one side he has to take care of because it's been repaired?

BRIAN CASHMAN: You know, I don't believe one has something to do with the other, and I don't believe -- I did not ask specifically that question. I think the second one you had. So I can't really answer it. I just know that here's the issue, it's fixable, and here's the process. We need to do the four to six weeks of physical therapy beforehand and the four to six months of recovery time and then turn him loose again. Does that mean the right hip could be a problem down the road again, does that mean the left hip could rear its ugly head again? Sure, I'm sure it does, but the right hip looks good, and I suspect after the surgery the left hip will look good, as well.

Q. Just to clarify, was that the first time Alex actually felt something or the first time he told you he felt something when Joe went to pinch hit for him?

BRIAN CASHMAN: Yeah, the first time he ever as you remember, right before the playoffs started he publicly explained he felt better than he'd ever felt in his career, during the playoffs physically. He was not getting any treatment on the area of his hip and stuff like that, and so other than routine maintenance stuff that's part of his program. But when Joe pinch hit for him, he mentioned immediately to Joe, listen, I've been thinking about this, so it was something clearly on his mind as he's trying to decipher why is this not working, what's going on, and sometimes your body speaks to you differently I guess is the best way to go.

There's so many different times that unfortunately you go through the process, and the history of you covering the game or me being a part of it from this side of the fence where something is not working, you can't seem to find it. I could even point to Michael Pineda. Michael Pineda last spring, the velocity wasn't there all spring. He didn't have any pain. He had an MRI on it and it didn't show anything, but clearly something was going on, eventually reared its ugly head and to find itself in pain one day on the rehab stint. Clearly, something was going on because in Alex's case the performance was not something you were used to seeing or anywhere close to seeing, and then on top of that but there wasn't any pain so the body wasn't indicating anything, but he certainly wasn't feeling right. He didn't feel like he was firing on all cylinders or getting the lower half working the way it was. He articulated that to Girardi when he pinched hit for him in game. So that night, I think we were travelling to Baltimore the next day, so that night we sent him to the hospital instead of waiting and making it a big media splash. Like we will find out exactly what this is right now and we'll send him in and have that right hip, which is the area he explained to Joe, we will have it looked at. After the doctor talked to him, he said hey, I want the right hip looked at. I just don't feel like it's working, something's not right. They did that over at New York Presbyterian, and he looked great, was fine.

But the left hip wasn't looked at, and there wasn't a complaint in the left hip so that wasn't something that was reviewed or looked at, but the right hip was, and that was the area of complaint, and we vetted it and then went to Baltimore to continue our series.

Q. Over the last few weeks have you in your search for whatever short term replacement you need, has that impacted the dollars you had to spend for your other needs, catcher, right field, anything like that?

BRIAN CASHMAN: Everything is going to count, there's no doubt about that. But I don't think anything has affected that right now, no.

Q. Alex just signed for five more years. The production seems to decline every year, and now this injury. What can you reasonably expect from him compared to who he used to be, and just how big a burden do you think those next five years are going to be for you guys?

BRIAN CASHMAN: It's hard to question the answer. Clearly he has dealt with a lot of physical injuries. When he's healthy, obviously at one point he was spectacular, and this past year he was dealing with a lot of questions regarding Alex's performance and what to expect and what can he expect going forward. Prior to obviously this revelation, he was still providing, although in a different way, above average caliber offense at that position, at third base.

That's just a difficult position to fill. There's a lot of teams out there looking for that position right now. If I have a healthy Rodriguez even after surgery in this capacity, you're still going to be better off than what the alternatives could be right now.

So I don't know really how to answer the question moving forward. I know that he's dealt with a lot of physical injuries. It's stuff that's serious. They're not your typical injuries that you're talking about. Labrum tears in your hip are something that's kind of new, and it's evolved in this sport it seems like in the last decade, and that's why, also, because one of the questions I asked, too, is in terms of deciphering and determining and being proactive and seeing that you're having issues like that, is there any way that your medical team could spot that prior, and the answer was no. It's such an emerging situation really until it really rears its ugly head with the pain or what have you. Most of the training out there isn't really sophisticated enough to all of a sudden spot something before the roof caves in.

Anyway, we're dealing with it now, and Alex is signed obviously going forward for five years, so we will have to withstand if there's times down like this, first three months of this year, which is the expectation. We'll have to find ways to withstand it. One player doesn't make a team, and so we have a full roster of guys plus our farm system behind that that's going to have to fill in. We've done it before, we've lost him. We've lost Derek for a period of time. We've lost a number of guys over the years that you just have to figure out a way to get through it.

We lost Mariano Rivera this year for the year, from May on and stuff. This stuff happens to every team in the game, and it's how you handle it, how you deal with it, and again, I think we've been down this road enough in a lot of different ways that you just have to take the step back, recognize it, deal with it and move forward. One thing I don't want to do is overreact to it. I don't think we're going to overreact to it. We just recognize that it's a serious issue and get him the best medical care possible and move forward and wait for him to return.

Q. I just want to make sure I understand your recreation of the injury. When Alex said something was going on with him, is it correct that in actuality it was his left hip and not the right hip that was bothering him, he just misidentified the origin? Had they done an MRI on his left hip that night they would have found the tears tear?


Q. Do you have a problem with the fact that the doctors didn't MRI the other hip?

BRIAN CASHMAN: I have no problem with it because again, you only focus on the area of complaint. If I light you up like a Christmas tree right now and you don't have any physical complaints, I'm sure I will find something on you that you are not even aware of that's asymptomatic. And a lot of times if it's asymptomatic, you don't even bother with it, so the complaint was on the right side, not the left.

Q. Was it odd to you or the doctors that he was complaining about the right side when it was the left? How do you not differentiate between the two?

BRIAN CASHMAN: I can tell you if a patient shows up in the emergency room with a complaint they're going to focus on where the complaint is, not something else. Bottom line, he went in there, he had a hip issue on the right side that had surgically been repaired. He complained about the right hip that day when he pinched hit for so they looked at the right hip and they found the right hip was good. Moved forward. The rest of it is, yeah, do you want to speculate on it all you want, but if they accidentally decided to light any other aspect of his body up, I guess they could have done that but it's not your typical course of action in the medical world.

Q. The last time he had in surgery, a similar surgery, he came back and drove in about 100 runs in about 125 games and was very good in the postseason. Have your doctors suggested that he can be a whole, productive player again with this? Or does age and a second surgery create a whole other level of problems that he might not get over and you're dealing with a lot less a player?

BRIAN CASHMAN: You know, to be honest the conversations we've had were, here's the problem, and we got a second opinion, how do you fix the problem. Simple as that, not what are we going to get after the fact. The expectation is he's going to return. He was in the end probably is the strongest reason and the most likely reason that he wasn't the player he was capable of being, and by fixing this, this will put him back in position to provide the maximum potential he has at that stage. What that is, I don't know. But we didn't have that type of dialogue. I didn't ask him, hey, is he going to hit 30 home runs for us going forward. There wasn't those type of conversations. It's just will he be in a position for that part of his body to function correctly and be in a position to swing the bat and run and field and all those important aspects that a pro athlete has to do, and the answer to that question was yes.

Now, to what degree, you have to stay tuned and watch, I guess. But we were more like, all right, let's get him the best medical care possible as anybody would and then move forward to solving the problem and fixing it and then see what we see after the fact. I think once he's fixed you'll certainly see a return to a player that's more than capable and above average at that position.

Q. The last time he had surgery he played two months after the surgery. You're talking about a much longer rehab period this time. Is it because he's older, is it because the surgery is more complicated?

BRIAN CASHMAN: The surgery, I think -- I am going to try to explain, forgive me I'm on the amateur side, but I believe this press release contains something of a bone impingement. That is the difference between that and the previous surgery which will make this longer. That's all. It is a more complicated surgery with a longer recovery time because there is a little bit more that needs to be done, all of which is fixable. So obviously you've done your homework and it's fair to it's a fair question to ask, and that's about as comfortable of an answer as I can provide is that it is more extensive. That's why it's longer. I don't think it's age related.

But at the same time, the older you are, the slower you're going to recover regardless. But the bottom line and the message I've been receiving is that this is a solvable issue, it's just timing is a big deal in it.

Q. How much will you consider Eduardo Nuñez maybe playing third again and also Jason Nix?

BRIAN CASHMAN: I personally have not considered Nuñez as our third baseman. I've looked at him as a shortstop. He's physically capable of moving around the infield, but I like him as a shortstop. But we'll see. I mean, the whole winter program that we're going to run through right now basically is assess our opportunities, our choices, realize we have something coming back here eventually, and how we fill that position, you just have to it's going to be determined. Stay tuned, watch this thing play out over time. This will be a lot of speculation now that this is out there, but I've been operating with the understanding that this was a realistic issue to deal with, and we have been having the conversations out there about what the realistic opportunities are in front of us.

Alex is going to get the care he needs, he's going to put in the work I can promise you this: He'll put the work forward that's necessary, and we'll do the work necessary behind the scenes to try to find adequate replacements in the meantime. And if that's shoring up all aspects of the club to cushion the blow at this particular position or filling this position, we'll see.

Q. You described these as not typical injuries. From the people you've spoken with, has there been any way to determine whether it's at all attributable to the steroid use?

BRIAN CASHMAN: Well, I have no idea. I mean, it just seems like there's -- I remember there was a period of time where -- I can't even think of it now. It just seems like new injuries show up in the game. We had Dwight Gooden and a number of guys getting what do you call that, weightlifters get a lot and stuff in the groin. You know what I'm talking about? Anyway, bottom line is you have to have surgery to replace and they put a mesh net in. We had like three guys go down, and all of a sudden the industry had a whole bunch of these things taking place in the game, whether surgery to fix hernias, and everybody is getting these inguinal hernias. Old timers were like, we never had this stuff going. So it is a level of sophistication that's diagnosing these things and you are being proactive in fixing them. Never heard of labrum tears in the hip, but now the labrum tears are something that's occurring around the game. Is it because of the level of sophistication that's taking place that they can see that stuff? I can't answer that, but I'm not aware that there's any connection to that and steroids.

Q. Do you wonder whether it is?

BRIAN CASHMAN: Do I wonder whether it is? It doesn't matter what I wonder. But the bottom line is it is definitely something that's occurred within our industry and it's happening in football, and thankfully there are doctors in a position to fix it. They may not have been in a position to fix it sophistication wise to fix it 20 years ago, but their skill level has developed in such a way now that they can take. They can take care of a cyst and remove it. They can repair the labrum in the hip, which I didn't even now existed, and they can get people back to functional work, even the pro athletes.