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Jeter setback has Yanks against wall

TAMPA, Fla. -- Maybe you've looked at the Yankees lately and wondered how they can not finish last in the American League East. How many punches can a team take and remain on its feet?

"I was raised under The Boss," general manager Brian Cashman said, "and what The Boss said is, `No excuses.' These are obstacles you deal with, and you find ways to get over them."

That's exactly the kind of thing George Steinbrenner would say, and that's one of the reasons Yankees fans loved him. Still, there are limits.

"No one cares about anything else. All they care about is the bottom line," Cashman said. "It's what you put in that win column."

When manager Joe Girardi was asked these questions two weeks ago, he said pretty much the same thing. He said the Yankees had dealt with adversity before. Dealt with it then. Would deal with it now.

"That's the job description, period," Cashman said. "You have to figure it out. That's all you do. You have to find a way."

The Yankees knew they'd be different offensively after the offseason free-agency departures of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and others. Now they'll be without Curtis Granderson for about a month of the regular season and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira indefinitely, perhaps the entire season.

On Wednesday, Cashman acknowledged that the previously indestructible Derek Jeter might also begin the season on the disabled list. So with Opening Day fast approaching, the Yankees have penciled in Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco in left, Juan Rivera at first base, Eduardo Nunez at shortstop and Francisco Cervelli at catcher.

Cashman will be scouring the waiver wire for help in these final days of Spring Training. He seems unlikely to change the larger course he has set and deal any of his best Minor League talent, which, unfortunately for 2013, is at Double-A and below.

And the question marks at those four spots isn't the end of the discussion. The Yankees are counting on Ichiro Suzuki (right), Travis Hafner (designated hitter) and Kevin Youkilis (third), but have no idea how much productive baseball they still have in them.

Until Wednesday, they pretty much figured they could count on solid production from three spots: second base (Robinson Cano), center field (Brett Gardner) and shortstop (Jeter). Now they're not so sure about Jeter.

"Obviously we'd like not to have those issues," Cashman said, "but issues are part of everybody's circumstances. Some years you have more than others, but the bottom line is, your job is to get through 'em no matter whether you're player, coach, manager or front office. Your job is to get through all these issues, period."

OK, this is where we spin the optimistic angle. The Yankees could have a terrific starting rotation and a very good bullpen. Andy Pettitte is 40, Hiroki Kuroda is 38, and the Yankees need both of them to stay healthy.

There's also an aura to the Yankees that's still worth something. It's interesting that even with all the losses, even with a lineup that's a shadow of previous seasons, no one is completely counting them out.

For one thing, that pitching staff could keep them competitive. For another thing, the Yankees could stay close long enough to get at least Granderson back, and if they're close, Cashman will have the resources -- at least in dollars if not Minor League talent -- to fill holes.

But it's a different kind of Spring Training. For most of the last 20 years, they've been conceded a postseason berth, the questions being whether they could win another championship.

This spring, the discussion is completely different. In terms of what can be measured and seen, the Yankees do not resemble anything they've put on the field in a long time.

"It's a long season," Cashman said. "We're going to do everything in our power to make sure that when the dust settles, you're sitting around asking, `How did you figure your way through this?' We're not going to allow it to bury us."

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U
Read More: New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Eduardo Nunez