Yankee beat reporters find Knoblauch optimistic one moment, terse and sullen the next.
He refused to talk to the print media after Saturday's game. Approached by a writer from Los Angeles earlier in the week, Knoblauch insisted he will be fine, that his problems this spring have stemmed largely from a failure to keep his eyes on the target when he throws, that his elbow is sound after his bad mechanics led to the problem that put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career last year and "no matter what happens I'll be able to look in the mirror because I've done everything I can to deal with it, to get through it."
Said Torre: "Chuck is an offensive player for us and I've told him he doesn't have to be perfect defensively. Whether he's going to get through it remains to be seen, but the fact he's not trying to hide is positive. I think he feels good about the work he's put in, and he has a different look in his eyes this year. I mean, the way he was last year, he might have already torn up the clubhouse or kicked in a water cooler."
Ultimately, Knoblauch will have to prove he can remember how to ride the bike and stay on it. General Manager Brian Cashman noted the other day that the Yankees will be discussing the situation and have options at the position.
Said Randolph: "It's my job to find the flaws, but I feel like we've touched all the bases with Chuck. We have to hope that he continues to fight and something clicks. I look in his eyes and see the frustration. He's been at the top echelon in his career and I know he wants to get back. He's a tough kid who isn't looking for sympathy, and that's a good thing. Everyone has their own issues in this game."
COMING AND GOING?
Christian Parker, a 25-year-old right-hander who has never pitched above double A and doesn't light up the speed guns, has emerged as the leading candidate for the Yankees' fifth starting spot based on a strong spring and the ineffectiveness of his competition. Parker was 14-6 at double-A Norwich last year after being something of a throw-in in the trade that sent Hideki Irabu to Montreal.
Meantime, farther south on the Gulf Coast at Fort Myers . . .
Former Yankee starter David Cone may be losing the battle to extend his career at 38 and produce one last hurrah for the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees' hated rival.
Cone, 4-14 with the Yankees last year, yielded to shoulder pain after pitching one inning of Tuesday's start against Minnesota, and it is not clear when he will pitch again.
"I came in here with the idea that I'm past the point of MRIs and surgeries in my career," he said, meaning he may consent to a regimen of cortisone but nothing more.
"If I can't make it, I can't make it, but I want to do everything I can to come back. Every day I wake up and hope I respond and can pick up a ball and make progress. I know we're at a point at which the club has to make some decisions, but I'm not going to give up yet."
GET SERIOUS, BUD!
As union leader Donald Fehr continues to tour the camps and talk up the improved relationship with management, trying to sustain the cordial tone in preparation for the start of bargaining negotiations later this year, Commissioner Bud Selig should fine himself the $1 million he has threatened to fine owners for discussing labor issues.
Selig's attempt to paint contraction--the elimination of Montreal and Minnesota perhaps--as a serious possibility and something more than a bargaining chip, doesn't fly.
At a time when owners are bemoaning the industry's economics, who's going to establish the franchise values and then pay Carl Pohlad, the Minnesota owner, and Jeffrey Loria, the Montreal owner, the several hundred million dollars they would be owed to close down their organizations? Who would pay off all the stadium and local contracts, and what would happen to the player contracts? What kind of adjustments would TV networks and sponsors demand going into 28 markets instead of 30?
The Twins and Expos may have to move, and probably should, but eliminating them isn't something that's going to happen in the context of the approaching labor talks, and Selig isn't helping the Minnesota and Montreal markets by suggesting it might.
Contraction has all the aroma of a negotiating ploy and another attempt to produce some ballpark action in those two cities.
TICKET TO RIDE
Alex Rodriguez was scheduled to board a Texas Ranger team bus in Port Charlotte, Fla., at 7:15 this morning for a three-hour trip to Fort Lauderdale and a game with the Baltimore Orioles. Rodriguez volunteered for today's trip, his third bus hop in a five-day span and his fourth in seven days.
"I'm just like everybody else," he said. "We're in it together."
Well, with that $252-million contract, Rodriguez is being royally compensated to ride the buses and foster a team concept, but his approach provides a sharp contrast to that of Ken Griffey Jr. He didn't accompany the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday's relatively short trip from Sarasota to Port Charlotte, seldom plays on the road and, on the rare occasion he did earlier this spring, took a plane from Sarasota to Fort Myers, about a 20-minute hop.
Differing lifestyles for the rich and famous.