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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Lowe the latest Yankee to find magic in pinstripes

Justice: Lowe fits right in with Yankees

Lowe the latest Yankee to find magic in pinstripes
It's not even a surprise that Derek Lowe would stroll in from the bullpen and save a game in his first appearance for the New York Yankees.

There's magic in those pinstripes. Don't buy it? Check with Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones.

How about Raul Ibanez? He might have something to say on the subject. Don't forget Freddy Garcia and Jayson Nix, either.

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They all appeared to be close to the end of the line the last couple of seasons, when Yankees general manager Brian Cashman offered them the opportunity to play for the most famous sports franchise on earth.

The Yankees have more money than any team in Major League Baseball. Stop me if you've heard that one.

Cashman isn't going to apologize for that fact. He's proud of it, because it's one of the legacies George Steinbrenner left.

All that money sometimes obscures some of the other good work the Yankees do. Dotted around that clubhouse with all those $20-million players are a string of smart acquisitions.

They prove how really good Cashman and his staff are at their jobs, that while the Yankees do have the money to afford players like Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, there's a much larger mix that goes into constructing a winning team.

No general manager in the game has surrounded himself with smarter people than Cashman. No general manager has more detailed scouting reports on players.

All those years of working for Steinbrenner and being prepared to answer virtually any question at any hour of the day taught Cashman all sorts of lessons on being thorough and leaving no stone unturned.

For instance, there was a day last winter when Cashman picked up the telephone and checked in with Andy Pettitte.

He simply wanted Pettitte to know that if was thinking of ending his one-year retirement that he would be welcome back with the Yankees.

As it turned out, Pettitte did still have a fire burning, and the Yankees ended up needing him, and even with him on the disabled list, are counting on him for a stretch run.

Likewise, Garcia.

Some of Cashman's personnel people believed he still had something left two years ago. In the previous five seasons, Garcia had won just 34 times for three different teams.

He'd been solid in 2010 for the White Sox, but it was tough to imagine him stepping in and being productive for the Yankees at the age of 33.

All he did was have his best season in almost a decade in 2011, winning 12 games, pitching 146 2/3 innings and compiling a 3.62 ERA.

Cashman trusted his people, but he got a bonus, too. He found that Garcia was close enough to the end of his career to appreciate every day he had in uniform. In two seasons with the Yankees, he has been productive on the mound and a good teammate in the clubhouse.

When Alex Rodriguez went down on July 25, some of us assumed that Cashman finally would be forced to make a higher profile move.

Chase Headley? Yes, he'd make some sense.

Instead, Cashman announced his confidence in Chavez, who has resurrected his career during two seasons with the Yankees.

He picked up Casey McGehee from the Pirates for reliever Chad Qualls and believed manager Joe Girardi could make some kind of platoon work.

Chavez, Nix and McGehee are hitting a combined .344 with seven home runs since Rodriguez got hurt. The Yankees are among the American League leaders in both categories at third since the injury.

Cashman signed Ibanez with the idea of having him serve as a designated hitter. But Brett Gardner's injury forced Ibanez into the outfield for 58 starts. He has 15 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Cashman has gotten such consistent production out of his under-the-radar pickups that it's not a surprise when one of them wins another game for the Yankees.

Even with Mariano Rivera, Pettitte, Sabathia and Rodriguez on the disabled list, the Yankees are spending their 63rd consecutive day atop the AL East. They've got the best record in the AL, and their lead in the East hasn't been under three games since June 25.

Now it's Lowe's turn. He had an 8.77 ERA in his last 10 starts for the Indians. At 39, he seemed to be facing the next chapter of his life.

He admitted he'd had a great run, 16 seasons and 174 victories. Cashman knew Lowe well from his eight seasons with the Red Sox and believed there might still be some productive baseball in his right arm, even after two tough years.

With Sabathia hurting and David Phelps moving to the rotation, Cashman offered Lowe a bullpen job and nothing more. Lowe loved the idea of being part of a winning environment and playing with Derek Jeter. If he still had any productive baseball left in him, this would be the perfect opportunity to find out. If his first appearance is any indication, he's going to fit right in.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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