NEW YORK (AP) – The New York Yankees began pressing ahead with their offseason transformation, asking and receiving permission from the Atlanta Braves to speak with pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

General manager Brian Cashman still has not determined whether he will sign a new deal or leave when his current contract expires at the end of the month. And manager Joe Torre hasn’t spoken publicly since New York was eliminated from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Angels.

Contacted Monday, Cashman declined comment on his status, saying nothing has been decided.

But the Yankees do know they will need a new pitching coach. Mel Stottlemyre, who has held the job since Torre took over after the 1995 season, said last week he did not plan to return and leveled criticism at the Tampa wing of New York’s split front office.

The request to speak with Mazzone, first reported by MLB.com, was confirmed by a baseball official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team did not intend for the matter to become public.

Braves spokesman Brad Hainje said the team does not comment on personnel issues. A message left at Mazzone’s home in Atlanta was not immediately returned.

Mazzone rebuffed interest from the New York Mets after the 2002 season, signing a new deal with the Braves that included a significant pay increase.

“Forget it,” Mazzone said at the time. “I’m an Atlanta Brave. I’m very pleased with what I got here. They were very fair. I’m pleased with everything.”

Mazzone, who turned 57 Sunday, has been with the Braves organization since 1979. He had a brief stint as Atlanta’s co-pitching coach in 1985, then returned as the sole pitching coach in June 1990 after Bobby Cox was hired as manager.

The Braves have perennially been among the NL leaders in ERA, but they dropped off to sixth this season (3.98). The team was plagued by injuries to the starting rotation and a dismal bullpen that went through three closers.

“More of it’s the mental approach, because the mental approach dictates your mechanics,” Mazzone said last month, talking about his approach to pitching. “If you’re in a prevent defense, those mechanics may falter. If you’re in attack mode, your looking right.

“If pitchers resort to super control or super power, they get themselves messed up mechanically. That’s how Jaret Wright was able to smooth himself out when he was with us.”

Other possible candidates include Yankees bullpen coach Neil Allen, Yankees scout Joe Kerrigan and Columbus pitching coach Gil Patterson. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner also might try to persuade former New York star pitcher Ron Guidry to take the job.



AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Atlanta contributed to this report

AP-ES-10-17-05 2147EDT


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