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Lee leaves Bombers behind in the count

It was nowhere near the infamous LeBron “Decision,” but in the end, Cliff Lee spurning New York might actually make the Philadelphia Phillies the Miami Heat of pitching rotations.

It was nowhere near the infamous LeBron “Decision,” but in the end, Cliff Lee spurning New York might actually make the Philadelphia Phillies the Miami Heat of pitching rotations.

While James passed over the Knicks in a forgettable national TV special, Lee shocked the Yankees in an almost equally stunning way late Monday night. While there is ecstasy in Philadelphia, which now boasts perhaps the best rotation in major-league history, panic has overtaken outrage in Yankee land.

The Yankees’ rotation looks as weak as it did walking out of the dugout in Arlington, Texas, in October. Take a quick glimpse beyond CC?Sabathia and you start to see why. A.J. Burnett’s 10-15 performance hardly inspires confidence, while Phil Hughes won 18 games but with very favorable run support. Andy Pettitte is an aging lefty who has yet to decide his plans for next season, leaving the possibility that shaky starters Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova could round out the rotation.

Yankees pitching targets

Blank check for Pettitte
Top priority. At this point Andy Pettitte is on a year-to-year basis. It sounds like the 38-year-old might need some extra prodding but having the lefty name his price within reason might be a start.

Doesn’t hurt to make a call
You never know. Josh Johnson is going into the second year of a four-year deal, while Felix Hernandez is in the second year of a five-year extension. Fire sales could spark any minute, so picking up the phone now or more likely next summer is worth a shot.

Zack attack
Head games. The 2009 Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke has a high price and his past social anxiety problems might not be a good fit in New York. However, if the Royals are willing to deal him next summer, the price could drop and the Yankees could consider it.

Hope for reclamation
Optimism. Every offseason an injured or ineffective player is signed and successfully makes a comeback. There are several who fit that criteria in 2011, including Mark Prior, who the Yankees reportedly signed to a minor-league deal. Carlos Zambrano is another Cub that could rebound. The once dominant “Big Z” is unhappy in Chicago.

Plan B includes Martin, keeping a cool head

So what is Plan B? In a word, patience, general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday. Well, at least with pitchers.

With the loss of Cliff Lee, the strength of the 2011 Yankees will be the lineup. That’s why Cashman agreed on a deal with free-agent catcher Russell Martin last night. The two-time All-Star has declined the past two years with the Dodgers but hit .293 with 19 homers in 2007.

Bringing in Martin means moving on from Lee. Cashman asked fans to remember the Yankees won 95 games without Lee last season, and with a healthy Andy Pettitte and a level-headed A.J. Burnett, “we’ll be fine.”

 
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