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Joe Girardi ready as Yankees camp opens

Bombers skipper talkative on many topics in first press meeting
02/12/2013 12:42 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Joe Girardi believes the 2013 Yankees can win 95 games and reach the World Series.(AP)
Spring Training 2013 is officially underway for the Yankees, as pitchers and catchers reported to camp in Tampa on Tuesday. Manager Joe Girardi also held his annual press briefing on camp’s opening day, answering questions on subjects ranging from the “new-look” offense to the status of injured Yankees to his own status beyond 2013.

In regards to the offense, Girardi acknowledged that losing six of his regulars or semi-regulars from 2012 – and the 112 home runs they hit – can’t help but change the offense, but he thinks the team can get the job done.

"We're going to have to find different ways to score runs,” Girardi said of his offense, which lost 112 home runs between the six missing players. “Our offense is going to be different, but I believe we're going to score runs."

The one member of that sextet who at least may be back sometime this season is Alex Rodriguez, but he definitely won’t be seen in Tampa anytime soon according to the skipper.

"He will continue to rehab in New York; he's not ready to do anything with us from a baseball standpoint,” Girardi said of A-Rod, who is slated to be out until at least July while recovering from hip surgery. “There’s not a lot he can do here.”

Rodriguez is just now getting off crutches after having said surgery in mid-January, and outside of saying that the potential PED controversy surrounding A-Rod won’t be a distraction to the team – even as he said “this club is used to having what people might call distractions” – Girardi was otherwise mum on his slugger’s status.

"There really isn't a lot to talk about. My concern is to get him healthy," the skipper said.

With that, talk turned to a pair of other Yankees recovering from injury, namely Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Girardi said that while concerns won’t abate until he sees them on the field, he doesn’t feel he has to worry too much about that half of the “Core Four,” and that 2013 should be business as usual for them – especially Jeter.

“I believe he's going to be an everyday shortstop,” Girardi specifically said of The Captain, “but you have to see it (before you can say it for sure).”

After answering requisite questions about the catching situation, talk then moved to the remainder of the lineup, specifically its current left-handed slant – especially in the outfield, where three lefties make up the starting triad.

To that, Girardi said that finding a right-handed DH was one of the spring’s priorities – extra good news for those righty-hitting outfielders in camp – and he wasn’t sure how he’ll stack his lineup quite yet; meanwhile, on the defensive side, Girardi was noncommittal on the rumors that the Yankees may try to swap center fielder Curtis Granderson and left fielder Brett Gardner, saying only that the current alignment was what it was and anything is possible.

“As of today, no,” Girardi said when asked if he had plans to try the switch this spring, “(but) it's something that could be talked about. … If it’s worth exploring, we’ll try it early and see what happens.”

One other key Yankee who could be a free agent after 2013 is Girardi himself, as he is entering the final year of his contract, but the skipper also said that he’s not worried about anything that will happen after September 30.

"I don't worry about where I'm going to be next year. I'm worried about the next 162 games in front of us," he said.

All told, Girardi said that last year’s Yankees won 95 games and reached the American League Championship Series despite a lot of hardships, and he believes that this year’s bunch can be even better.

“This team could win 95 games and get to the World Series…there’s a lot of character in this room,” Girardi said, and in closing, he eschewed the age concerns surrounding the team in favor of praising experience.

“I love the people we brought back because I know they’re tested.”

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