Epstein, Cashman mum on Santana

The Yankee and Red Sox GMs have a friendly rivalry, even if their teams don’t.

WAYNE, N.J. (AP) — Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein share a friendship that belies the often acrimonious rivalry between their teams, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Don’t worry, there’s no chance that the high esteem in which the two general managers hold each other will ever change the way they go about their business.

“I deal with all 28 teams,” the Yankees’ Cashman said with a wink when asked about his negotiating strategy, pointedly leaving out the 29th team, Boston. “Then, when I’m about to hang up with the 28th team, I say, ‘Hey, do you know what Boston’s up to?’ ”

A month after they appeared at a charity event in Boston hosted by Epstein, the two packed an auditorium at William Paterson University Friday night as part of a guest lecture series.

During a session with reporters before the event, Epstein brushed off a question about Boston’s interest in Minnesota left-hander Johan Santana and refused to make any predictions for the upcoming season.

“We’re just trying to build a team that can compete in the toughest division in baseball,” he said. “Baseball’s a long season and it’s fairly humbling, and once you start that kind of talk, bad things can happen.”

Cashman wasn’t nearly as reluctant to anoint the Red Sox the team to beat.

“Until someone takes that away from them, they’ll have that swagger,” he said. “When they step on the field in spring training, they’ll know what they can do because they’ve done it. That’s important.”

He also reiterated his position on Santana without mentioning the player by name.

“My strong recommendation is that we stick with our young pitching and keep it in-house,” Cashman said to cheers.

Cashman called the Yankees a “championship-caliber team,” but conceded his pitching staff is in transition. He said reliever Joba Chamberlain would prepare to compete for a spot in the starting rotation in spring training but didn’t rule out using the big right-hander in the bullpen.

Audience questions for both men ranged from the serious to the silly. One man grilled the two about baseball’s steroids policy and was followed by a woman who offered the services of her husband, a massage therapist, to help Yankees trainer Gene Monahan, in the upcoming season.

While baseball was the evening’s main topic, both men drew several parallels to football, and the Super Bowl in particular, during the media session.

Cashman compared the New England Patriots’ recent dominance in the NFL with the Yankees’ rule over Major League Baseball in the mid- to late 1990s and called the latter feat “extremely rare and difficult” in the modern era.

Though he is friends with Patriots personnel director Scott Pioli, Cashman spoke of his relationships with former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi and the Mara family, and revealed that one of his roommates when he was the Yankees’ assistant general manager in the mid-1990s was Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s son, Tim.

“He answered a few calls from ‘The Boss,’ ” Cashman said. “He has some stories to tell.”

Epstein, meanwhile, sought advice from the Patriots’ organization after Boston was swept in the first round of the playoffs in 2005, a year after their historic World Series victory.

Their advice “wasn’t earthshaking, but it was meaningful hearing it from them,” he said.

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