Joe Girardi returned to Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon, not even a full day after the 2014 regular season came to a close, for a meeting with the media. His assessment of the 2014 season, still very fresh in his mind, was much easier to make than a prognostication of the upcoming 2015 season.
The Yankee skipper first reflected on the just completed season, “We’re 20 hours removed from what we did. The biggest disappointment I think, it’s not making the playoffs. That’s why we come to work. That’s our focus. We didn’t get to where we wanted, so I’m disappointed. What we did this year was not good enough. We have to get better.”
Despite his repeated statements of regret, Girardi, as he usually does, spoke very positively. He listed many reasons for his high expectations for the improvement of the Yankees in 2015, “We have a lot of good pieces. We expect to be younger and healthier. I’m not sure the task is as big as some people think.”
He acknowledged that the Yankees did not score a sufficient number of runs to finish higher in the standings, but expressed his faith in the offense, “I still believe there’s enough talent in that room [Yankee clubhouse] to score runs.”
Girardi was pleased with the pitching, both starting and the bullpen, but said, “You can never have enough pitching.” He specifically mentioned only a few on the staff.
“[Michael] Pineda was probably better than we expected. I look forward to 2015 with him.”
The Yankee manager expects rookie Masahiro Tanaka to be fully recovered from his injury and much improved after one season in MLB and one year in the United States, “We expect him to make 32 starts. I think he learned a lot. He’ll be more comfortable next year in Spring Training.”
Girardi stated that most people did not believe that Mariano Rivera could be replaced as the club’s closer, but “David Robertson did a tremendous job replacing Mo.”
Girardi expressed satisfaction with the outfield of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, but did not mention veteran Ichiro Suzuki, who played more than 140 games in 2014.
He currently sees the infield as Mark Teixeira at first, Martin Prado (“who gives us versatility”) at second, Brendan Ryan or someone else at shortstop and Alex Rodriguez at third.
The largest amount of questions directed to Girardi concerned Rodriguez, whose suspension does not end until after the World Series is concluded. The manager admitted it’s too soon to know of Rodriguez’s playing condition, “We have to see where he’s physically at. I don’t think we’ll know until we get there [Spring Training.]”
Without the presence of Derek Jeter on the team next year it is very unlikely that Rodriguez will not be the center of attention, yet Girardi claimed, “Alex won’t be a distraction.’
The manager’s responses on Monday are hardly the final answers for 2015. He admitted, “We are going to sit down and evaluate everything.” Anything said by the manager on Monday can change after the franchise’s hierarchy meets and makes decisions. It is quite unlikely that personnel changes will not be made after two straight seasons the Yankees have been out of the playoffs despite the positive expectations expressed by Girardi on Monday.