By Joe Brescia February 18, 2012 9:56 am February 18, 2012 9:56 am
Barton Silverman/The New York TimesGene Michael.
Gene Michael has been a member of the Yankees organization through six decades as a player, coach, scout, manager and general manager and now as a senior vice president and senior adviser.
When he was the general manager in the 1990s, the club rebuilt the farm system as it drafted Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte and developed Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, the core of the recent World Series title teams. Michael also traded for Paul O’Neill. With training camp starting, he will continue to help Brian Cashman shape this year’s roster.
Michael, 73, was in Manhattan recently to attend the annual fund-raiser for the Baseball Assistance Team, which helps former players and baseball employees in need.
How difficult was it to trade catcher Jesus Montero?
We all liked Jesus a lot. But we had to do something to get starting pitching. Montero is a top prospect. But (Michael) Pineda is a top prospect who already had success on the major league level. He has a big arm, a big slider, and we see him as developing even more. And (Jose) Compos has a good arm.
Q. Were you in favor of adding pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a staff that had five starters?
A. I like the idea of having extra starters. People get hurt in the spring, and you wind up being short. I’d rather have too many. We’ve always had great success when we had extra starters. Kuroda had good numbers with the Dodgers. I know he pitched in the National League and the A.L. East is tough, but he has the stuff to succeed there. And it didn’t cost us any players.
Q. Are you as a former utility infielder concerned about Eduardo Nunez’s 20 errors last season?
A. He’s better defensively than what he showed. I think he got a little nervous at times. A little tense. He’s a good prospect. He can run, and he’s a smart base runner. He has a good arm, good range, and he can hit.
Q. Who could be the surprise in camp?
A. Usually, it’s a pitcher that stands out, and I look for Phil Hughes to bounce back. I think he’ll be in better condition, and he’ll be stronger this year.
Q. How are things different without George Steinbrenner?
A. Hal (Steinbrenner) is different than George in a lot of ways. Hal turns decisions over to the baseball people, Brian in particular. Brian runs the show baseball-wise. When George was here, he was always involved.
Q. What comes to mind when you remember George?
A. He was a workaholic. He lived for it. He got up early and worked all day, into the evening. Then he’d feel good and close it up for the night.