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Managing a steady stream of injuries, Girardi's creative lineups powering Yankees

05/17/2013 8:50 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Joe Girardi has moved his players around this season, including asking Robinson Cano to play some shortstop.(AP)
Already this season, Robinson Cano has played shortstop, Vernon Wells has played both second base and third base, and four different players have started at the hot corner with three manning first base.

Now, with Chris Stewart battling a groin injury, Alberto Gonzalez - who has already played shortstop and pitched in just a week on the active roster - may end up having to serve as an emergency catcher if something happens to Austin Romine over the next few days.

All in a day's work, says Joe Girardi, who this season has gotten lucky enough to have a group of players willing to do whatever - and play wherever - they can to help keep the team rolling.

"It's nice that the guys are open to ideas; it just shows you they're willing to do anything to help this club win, to increase the value of themselves," Girardi said prior to Friday's game. "It's not too often you have guys volunteer. Just the other day, I told Vernon (Wells) I might need him to go to the infield, and he asked 'can I pick my spot?' He ended up at second that day, but it's nice that some guys are willing to do so much."

Of all the success Girardi has had, both with the Yankees and in his one Manager of the Year season with the Marlins, 2013 so far might be his best managing job yet. The Yankees have rostered 36 players, with at least a dozen on the disabled list at some point, and as even the skipper will admit, he's down on his "fourth-string" left-side infield with Gonzalez and David Adams.

"Thankfully, we're able to run out some people that we feel can get the job done. We're finding different guys to keep plugging holes, and it is what it is: a lot of juggling," general manager Brian Cashman said to that effect. "So far we've been up to the challenge, and I know whoever steps in is anxious to get the opportunity."

That said, as Girardi will also admit, he'll get no sympathy from anyone for his team's plight if things do go south, so he just draws on past experiences and something he learned from his parents long ago.

"Past experience helps me, and the way I was raised helped me," Girardi said. "You just continue to move on, no matter what the circumstances are. I saw that from my mom, who was a cancer patient, and I saw it from my dad too, so that's helped a lot."

And, along the way, Girardi has had to get creative at times; Wells had never played the infield at the Major League level, for instance, but for an inning or two, he did whatever Girardi needed to do to get through the day.

Those late-game moves, Girardi said, aren't as challenging as they seem, nor is dealing with players going on the disabled list and figuring out how to replace them; the former is a temporary solution, and the latter is something he's been dealing with since Opening Day - but where the real challenge lies, according to the skipper, is dealing with situations like Stewart's or Travis Hafner's, where a lingering "minor" injury leaves a player unavailable for a few days and shortens an already short bench.

"I think I take the approach that it is what it is, and we'll try to get thru the day. The challenging ones are the ones when you wonder is he a DL guy or is it a couple of days, more than a couple days, etc.," Girardi said. "And, it really tests your creativity when it's a pitcher, or you don't feel like you have enough innings in your bullpen. That's where you're tested, but I just look at it like I'm going to figure a way to get it done, and sometimes you have to ask people to do things they're not accustomed to do."

It may have been quite a juggling act for Girardi through the first quarter of the season, but through 42 games, he still has his Yankees in a place they're very accustomed to: first place.

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