Toronto — His team stuck in a rut, manager Joe Torre wanted to talk to the Yankees.

Toronto — His team stuck in a rut, manager Joe Torre wanted to talk to the Yankees.

For an hour.

Sensing an attitude problem on his struggling team, Torre held a lengthy meeting before last night's game in Toronto. The session ran so long the Yankees were nearly a half-hour late taking the field for stretching and batting practice.

"I've seen some tentativeness," Torre said. "If there's a word to characterize this whole thing, it's 'frustration.'"

New York fell six games below .500 for the first time this season after being swept by the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend. After last night, the Yankees (21-28) have dropped 12 of their past 17, leaving them 13½ games behind Boston in the AL East — their largest deficit since late in the 1995 season.

"It's not fun, no question," Torre said. "We certainly haven't lived up to our expectations."

The Yankees started a 10-game road trip, their longest of the season. After Toronto, they'll play at Boston and Chicago.

Torre did not divulge specifics about the meeting, but said he'll continue to try different things to create a winning spark.

"We're going to keep rearranging the furniture until we find something that works," he said. "Right now, we don't seem to be blending this thing very well."

Designated hitter Jason Giambi is stuck in a prolonged slump, going 4-for-44 with one RBI over his last 15 games. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez is just 7-for-33 (.212) over his last nine games with all five of his RBI in that span coming on four homers.

"We've got to start winning," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "That's really all that matters."

The Yankees entered play in the unfamiliar position of fourth place, just one game ahead of last-place Tampa Bay.

It's not about chasing anybody," Torre said. "Right now we've got to straighten out our house. Our playoff opportunity is going to come from our record, not from who we're chasing."

Torre cautioned against counting on Roger Clemens to cure all of New York's ills. In his third minor league tuneup, Clemens was sharp yesterday at Triple-A and could soon rejoin the rotation.

"We don't have one savior who can do everything," Torre said. "We need to have everybody do what they can do and not be afraid to make mistakes."

Pitching has been a problem for the Yankees, who have used 11 different starters so far. Three starters — Phil Hughes, Jeff Karstens and Darrel Rasner — are on the disabled list while another, Kei Igawa, is working out his problems in the minor leagues.

With Clemens and the others likely to contribute at some point, Torre said his pitching staff has a "bright future."

"The only way you're going to make up any ground is with pitching," Torre said. "Scoring seven or eight runs a night doesn't guarantee you're going to win unless you can pitch."

While the struggles drag on, team owner George Steinbrenner has yet to discuss a managerial change, but has said general manager Brian Cashman is "on a big hook."

Torre, who has been fired three times in his career, knows better than to worry about job security.

"Anytime you go out there thinking about losing your job, you're not doing your job," Torre said.