Notes: Farnsworth has GM's support
Cashman hopes to use embattled righty as Rivera's setup man
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Left to the background behind rumors, speculation and spoken deadlines sprayed about the pursuit of Twins ace Johan Santana, the Yankees are also hoping to use the Winter Meetings as a springboard toward helping out their bullpen pathway.
While the Yankees have not yet officially announced their signing of closer Mariano Rivera to a three-year, $45 million deal, the agreement is considered to be a mere formality. Filling in the relief stack behind baseball's best postseason closer is the next priority.
"We're looking for anybody who can help us get to Mo, to be quite honest," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
With Joba Chamberlain still in line to head to the starting rotation, regardless of the Santana outcome or Andy Pettitte's decision late Sunday to rejoin the Yankees and pitch in 2008, Cashman said he envisions Kyle Farnsworth returning to his role as the club's setup man.
The 31-year-old Farnsworth fell out of favor in Joe Torre's mix, eventually relinquishing late-inning duties when control problems prompted the Yankees to call up Chamberlain as a boost to the bullpen, but Cashman said that new manager Joe Girardi -- Farnsworth's former catcher with the Cubs -- is high on the idea of returning Farnsworth's triple-digit fastball to the eighth inning.
The Yankees had opportunities to trade Farnsworth at the trading deadline, but Cashman said he was pleased the team resisted. Farnsworth pitched 17 2/3 innings after July 31 for New York, posting a 5.60 ERA.
"I think he's here to stay," Cashman said. "I'm not going to guarantee it, but I'm just telling you, I'm getting action on him. I doubt we're going to move him, because we're going to need him."
Cashman said the Yankees are not ruling out the free-agent market to add other relief help -- the club inquired about Troy Percival before the right-hander signed with the Rays -- but as of Monday, the trade market looked slightly more inviting.
Cashman confirmed that he has engaged Bean Stringfellow, the agent for free-agent reliever Luis Vizcaino, about retaining the right-hander, who made a career-high 77 appearances for New York after being acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Randy Johnson trade.
The Yankees also boast several internal candidates to bolster the bullpen, including prospects Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez and Steven White, all of whom have yet to make their Major League debuts. Meanwhile, if the Yankees decide they need a left-hander, current options would include Kei Igawa, Chase Wright or Sean Henn.
Several more days of meetings in Nashville could also open new avenues.
"By Thursday, we could have some more things to talk about," Cashman said.
First-base choices: In order to add newly signed catcher Jose Molina to their 40-man roster on Monday, the Yankees designated first baseman Andy Phillips for assignment -- the first of numerous roster moves to come, as Alex Rodriguez and Rivera also need to be added in the near future.
Phillips, 30, proved expendable because the Yankees already have a full complement of players prepared for duty at first base. Jason Giambi is in the final year of his $120 million contract and should see time at first base, but Shelley Duncan and Wilson Betemit could also compete for playing time. Cashman said that Juan Miranda, coming off a strong Arizona Fall League stint, could also open eyes in Spring Training.
"It's too early to say," Cashman said. "I do think we have people who can do the job."
Bombers bits: Cashman said that, as of now, the Yankees have not inquired about free-agent center fielders. There had been speculation in Nashville that Aaron Rowand would be a likely target if New York dealt Melky Cabrera. ... Yankees pitchers and catchers will report to Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 14. Position players are set to report on Feb. 19.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.