Girardi readies for the season

2/12/2009 - New York Yankees

TAMPA, Fla. -- Joe Girardi settled onto the wooden dugout bench at Steinbrenner Field for the start of his second spring training as manager of the New York Yankees and asked whether anyone wanted to discuss CC Sabathia.

Not yet. The first 28 minutes of his 40-minute opening session with writers dealt almost exclusively with Alex Rodriguez. Only then did attention turn to the rest of the team, and a question was asked about Girardi's job security.

Is his mindset going into the season that unless New York returns to the playoffs after missing out last year, he might not be allowed back for 2010?

"I don't necessarily think about those things," Girardi said, "but as you state the question, you're probably right."

New York finished third at 89-73 last year, eight games behind surprise AL East winner Tampa Bay and six games back of wild-card Boston. The Yankees were pretty much out of contention by late August and spent September dwelling on the final days of Yankee Stadium rather than a pennant chase.

That followed 13 consecutive postseason appearances, the final 12 under Joe Torre. It also was the first year after George Steinbrenner gave up control of the team's daily operations to sons Hal and Hank, and no one within the Yankees was happy.

Perhaps beating out Don Mattingly to replace Torre didn't turn out to be such a prize. Torre won four World Series titles in his first five seasons and recounted the highs and lows in his controversial new book.

Girardi comes to spring training this year wearing the same No. 27 on his back as he did last year. It represents the quest for the franchise's 27th World Series title, one that Torre and Girardi failed to fulfill.

"I never tried to replace him. I just tried to be myself," Girardi said.

New York's downfall was shaky starting pitching and a sputtering offense. With catcher Jorge Posada and left fielder/designated hitter Hideki Matsui injured for much of the season, New York's run production dropped from 968 the previous year to 789 last season.

Both are back following surgery, and the Yankees spent $423.5 million to add Sabathia, pitcher A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira. Girardi and GM Brian Cashman hope the changes should make for a more productive team in the first season of the new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium.

"I think me having the same lineup every day would help," Girardi said. "Obviously the starters that we have signed, we feel that it fortifies our rotation."

Rodriguez's admission that he used banned drugs while playing for Texas from 2001-03 is getting most of the attention. Girardi was at his son's basketball game last Saturday when he received a text message alerting him to the report that Rodriguez's name was on a list of 104 players who tested positive during baseball's anonymous survey in 2003.

But even before that, Girardi expected a hubbub when spring training began. In his mind, what would be the focus?

"I thought it would be a book," Girardi said.


Posada, coming off shoulder surgery, isn't likely to catch in exhibition games until mid-March, Girardi said. He probably will catch 100-110 games during the regular season if there are no setbacks, down from Posada's September estimate of 120-130. ... With spring training expanded by a week to 7½ weeks because of the World Baseball Classic, Mariano Rivera isn't likely to pitch in exhibitions when they start Feb. 25. Rivera, coming off minor shoulder surgery, has a preference to pitch eight-to-10 innings each spring training. ... Matsui, coming off left knee surgery, probably will be a DH for much of spring training. ... Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner was in attendance for part of a pre-spring training workout at the minor league complex that included Posada, SS Derek Jeter, 1B-OF Nick Swisher and RHP Chien-Ming Wang. Burnett arrived two days before the first official workout for pitchers and catchers and played catch in the outfield with reliever Brian Bruney. ... The highest number, 94, was assigned to RHP Kanekoa Texeira.