Notes: Vizcaino eyes setup role

Notes: Vizcaino eyes setup role

NEW YORK -- As Luis Vizcaino tried to navigate through an interview on Monday, his locker neighbor Mariano Rivera kept interrupting, grabbing his right arm one second, slapping him the next.

Vizcaino good-naturedly accepts occasional interference from the Yankees' closer, laughing and shrugging it off. Perhaps it's because Rivera has been so helpful in getting Vizcaino back where the right-hander believes he should be.

The 32-year-old Vizcaino led the Yankees with an 0.77 ERA during the month of June, shrugging off the early-season woes that inflated his ERA and deflated his confidence. Prior to his effort Sunday, Vizcaino had rattled off 12 consecutive appearances without allowing a run.

"I think the change is that I am more confident," Vizcaino said. "I throw the ball for strikes and see what happens. When you throw the ball for strikes, something will happen."

Nicknamed 'Daily' during his stay in Arizona last season for his willingness to take the ball on a regular basis, Vizcaino refuses to credit a heavy early workload for his initial struggles, though he appeared eight times in the Yankees' first 10 games and saw his ERA steadily increase thereafter.

Recently, Vizcaino has worked steadily with both Rivera and pitching coach Ron Guidry to remedy his mechanics. The changes have been marked; Torre said that Vizcaino's breaking ball now shoots down instead of flattening across, which he called "a big, big change."

"He struggled so badly that we dropped him into that middle-inning guy," Torre said. "He's gradually worked his way back. It hasn't been magically. He's been working with Gator and just trying to get that arm slot."

His recent success -- and the struggles of both Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor -- has Torre envisioning Vizcaino as a potential candidate for an eighth-inning role.

"When you look at the velocities, his numbers have gone up and his command has been a lot better," Torre said. "He just seems more comfortable. We kind of want to keep him there, because that's the guy we thought we were getting."

Vizcaino said he is ready for the increased responsibilities.

"Whenever he gives me the ball, I'll pitch in whatever inning," Vizcaino said. "That's my job."

Deal or no deal? While saying that the Yankees are not giving up on 2007, general manager Brian Cashman said he is not inclined to add to the current roster until the club proves it can contend for the postseason.

The Yankees entered their game against the Twins on Monday with a record of 37-41, 11 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East and nine games out of the AL Wild Card race.

"Last year's team earned the right to get reinforcement situation," Cashman said. "This year's team still hasn't earned that right. Last year's team showed it was a championship caliber situation. You earn the right to battle for the berth in the field in October.

"Not that I've had a situation present itself at this point, but I'd like to clearly see this team earn the right. And that's why we've got to concentrate on getting these guys going in the right direction as we continue to fight for October."

Torre said that he believes a lot depends on the immediate future to see if the Yankees can put themselves in a position where one player would help nudge the team toward the postseason. Until that point, though, Torre said the team would need to get the expected results from several key underperforming areas of the roster.

"I'm not saying we don't need somebody, but if we make an addition, if we don't get the contributions of [Bobby] Abreu, [Hideki] Matsui and [Robinson] Cano, I'm not sure the addition is going to make a difference. I think the addition could help, but if you want to use a basketball [analogy], it's not like going out there and getting someone who's seven feet tall. We need the other parts."

Man down: Torre may be able to try Vizcaino in the eighth inning sooner than anticipated.

Farnsworth was sidelined with back pain and was unavailable for Sunday's series finale with the A's and may not be ready to pitch Monday against the Twins.

The issue has been a nagging one for Farnsworth, who is 0-1 with a 4.88 ERA in 34 appearances this season.

Three's company: After Sunday's loss to Minnesota, Torre referred to the No. 3 spot in the lineup as the Yankees' "bugaboo," as they continue to try and patch a player in there to offer consistent production.

After Robinson Cano took an 0-for-5 Sunday, Monday brought a new contestant, as Derek Jeter dropped down from the No. 2 spot.

Though Torre said the move was more about getting Melky Cabrera into a higher slot and that both Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui are more natural fits, Torre said he had no qualms about putting Jeter down a spot.

"I know one thing -- it's not going to do anything to Jeter," Torre said. "If he goes hitless, he's not going to say that was because he hit third. In that regard, I'm not concerned about moving him up."

Cashing in: Alex Rodriguez's All-Star selection has earned him the highest amount of bonus money among players headed to San Francisco, according to a study performed by the Associated Press.

Rodriguez, 31, will make an additional $200,000 for his efforts representing the American League. He earned $100,000 for finishing with the most votes in his league in fan balloting, appearing on more than 3.8 million ballots.

New look: Torre said the Yankees will ease 26-year-old right-hander Edwar Ramirez into an opportunity in the bullpen, but no set plans have been made regarding how to use him.

"We're going to just take a look at him and put him in a spot to get a peek at what he has at this level," Torre said. "Then I think we can best decide what he can do."

Ramirez -- an Angels castoff who was pitching for Edinburg (Texas) of the independent United League last year before latching on with the Yankees -- had an 0.67 ERA in 15 appearances at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, striking out 47 and walking nine in 26 2/3 innings.

Torre said the Yankees had considered promoting Chris Britton again to help the bullpen but decided on Ramirez because his changeup would give a different look to a bullpen that already features power arms like those of Brian Bruney, Farnsworth and Proctor.

"He has that changeup and it just changes the look of the bullpen," Torre said. "It can strike somebody out, and I think that's important."

Coming up: The Yankees continue their four-game series with the Twins on Tuesday, sending right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (7-4, 3.86) to the mound. Right-hander Carlos Silva (6-8, 4.15) counters for Minnesota, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET on the YES Network.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.