(Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi addressed the media after the team’s Veterans Day event with the USO at Yankee Stadium.
Girardi made it clear he likes the team, but would be open to any moves General Manager Brian Cashman has planned to get the team back to the World Series. This is standard operating procedure for the Yankees, and is not motivated by the Mets making the World Series. They also will be focused on winning the division next year, as they always are, but it will take more precedence after losing the one-game Wild Card Playoff to Houston.
On Monday, Cashman said he is open to anything with regards to trades and signings. Girardi said of what he thinks needs to be done this offseason, “I think we’re always trying to figure out ways to improve the club, and sometimes it’s not necessarily through the free-agent route; it could be through trade routes and we had some success in the trades we made last year, in acquiring Didi (Gregorious) and Justin Wilson, and how big of a role that they played in our club. I think we’re going to continue to look at that.
“Obviously, I like the guys on our club and I love how hard they played for us, but the goal is to win and to win the World Series. I think when you talk about that, you have to look at every avenue you can to improve your club,” said Girardi.
On if the Yankees need minor tweaks to improve or a big splash in the offseason, Girardi said, “We were one of ten teams that made the playoffs. You look at our series with the Mets, and I know it’s during the regular season, and Kansas City, we played pretty well against those clubs. Kansas City, obviously, you look at their club and they did extremely well, there’s gonna be changes there. We have to make a few tweaks and we have to try to stay out of that one-game playoff, so your full team can take effect.”
Girardi said of using the one-game Wild Card playoff as a motivator in a way this year to win the division, “I think that’s how we thought last year, I don’t think that’s going to change. I never said, ‘let’s just get in,’ I really wanted to win our division because there’s too many things that can go wrong in a one-game playoff, that’s the problem. It will be to win our division.”
On how much he thinks they need another right-handed bat, Girardi said, “I think balance is extremely important in a lineup. Obviously, we had switch-hitters in the lineup, but we lost a big one in Tex (Mark Teixeira) down the stretch, and that was something that hurt us against left-handed pitching. I think a right-handed bat can help.”
New Yankees hitting coach Alan Cockrell said in a conference call last week that Brett Gardner was playing through a wrist injury for a significant part of last season. Girardi said being aware of that and how it affected his use of Gardner, “Well, I mean, you can look at it, he got hit in April, I believe it was (April 8 vs. Toronto), and that’s when it first started. May, June, July were all great, and he comes out and has that day against Toronto and, obviously, you know, everyone’s dealing with something, and you try to balance it. It’s like all these things that come across my desk on a daily basis, you’re trying to, like, ‘is this guy healthy enough to play? Can I run him out there,’ and those are things you have to balance. It wasn’t just Brett, there were a number of guys we had to deal with through the course of the year, pitchers that we have to deal with, position players, and you just try to balance it the best way you can.”
Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia just completed his alcohol-rehab treatment program. Girardi said of Sabathia, “I have (spoken to him). He sounds great, obviously, proud of how he stepped up and when he got help and he was pitching really well at the end of the season for us and, hopefully, this continues to help and he has a great season for us next year.”
On if he sees a scenario where Sabathia will not be in the rotation, Girardi said, “If he’s pitching the way was at the end of last season, I don’t see that – I see him in the starting rotation. Obviously, there’s going to be a number of people that are vying for those five spots. We have (Masahiro) Tanaka coming off that minor, little elbow surgery that he’s coming off of that we’ll have to deal with it and see where he’s at. We expect him to be back on time. We were in a situation where he had to watch innings for certain guys. If he’s (Sabathia) pitching well, he’s going to be in our rotation.”
On if he suspected Masahiro Tanaka was managing an elbow issue during the year, Girardi said, “He really didn’t have a lot of treatment on it, no, so guys just, sometimes adrenaline can get them through a lot of different things, and like I said, guys are used to feeling some things during the season and they play through it, and that’s just the way it is. There’s a number of players at the end of the year that you don’t really hear a whole lot about who go have surgery just to get some things tidied up. It didn’t keep him from making a start, it was never an issue, it really never came across my desk that he was having a lot of problems. It wasn’t what I expected at the end of the year, you know, I didn’t go into the last week of the season saying ‘I knew he needed surgery’ because I didn’t.”
Girardi said of Alex Rodriguez broadcasting for FOX during the playoffs, “I think he did a good job. It’s not easy, you know, the first time you do it, it’s actually somewhat stressful. In an arena where he’s usually comfortable, at a ballpark, it’s a whole lot different when the lights go on and you’re expected to say something that’s insightful and not embarrass yourself, so I think he did a good job.”
On what he thought of the Mets reaching the World Series and if it’s a motivating factor for the Yankees, Girardi said, “I think they did a tremendous job. Their young players stepped up and pitched extremely well.. Their offense got hot at the right time of the season. You don’t necessarily need motivation from outside sources. I mean, our guys are motivated from within the organization, extremely motivated from within, and that’s why we put the uniform on.”
On talk that the Mets now own New York after reaching the World Series, Girardi said, “That’s always going to be a debate. Every year, that’s going to be a debate. The bottom line is we live in a great baseball city, I mean, that’s the bottom line, you have two teams that there are high expectations moving forward. The play on the field determines which team is playing the latest and who is talked about the most.”
Girardi said of being comfortable with Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley as the team’s second basemen heading into next season, “We’re just going to have to see how the roster shakes out. I thought Ref did pretty decent job for us at the end of the year, especially after he didn’t play for 18 or 19 days, which was really pretty amazing. Let’s just see how the offseason goes and we’ll go from there.”
Last offseason, the Yankees traded catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for Justin Wilson, and both had good seasons for their new clubs. Girardi said of that, “I think one of the strengths of our team was our bullpen. Cervy, if he was here, he would have gotten playing time, but again, Brian McCann would have been our everyday catcher, so I think it worked out well for both clubs. Justin Wilson was extremely important to us and was a big part of our strength. We felt if we had a lead after six innings, we were going to nail it down, and it wasn’t necessarily that I couldn’t have shuffled those guys and put them in any order. They all did the job, so it worked out well for both clubs.”