After a long offseason, New York Yankees baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to George M. Steinbrenner field in Tampa today for the beginning of seven weeks of spring training. Also on Tuesday was Yankees Manager Joe Girardi’s opening press conference, where he finally discussed some of the burning questions that have faced the Yankees throughout the winter.
One of the biggest topics was third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who underwent hip surgery over the winter. In January, Rodriguez was connected to a health clinic that was under investigation for selling performance-enhancing drugs, and the Yankees had reportedly explored trying to void his contract. Joe Girardi noted that the injured star will not be in spring training with the Yankees, and instead will remain in New York as he continues his rehabilitation. When asked about the situation surrounding Rodriguez’s connection to performance-enhancing drugs, Girardi noted that, “There really isn't a lot to talk about ... My concern is to get him healthy.”
Girardi did give the indication that finding a right-handed hitting designated hitter is among his biggest concerns this spring. Reserve infielder Eduardo Nunez will receive considered for the spot, but he may not have enough pop in his bat to be a viable option. Non-roster outfielders Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz could also receive consideration among players in camp for the position. It makes sense that Girardi and General Manager Brian Cashman will be scouring the trade market throughout the spring in search of a solution.
Another major discussion piece throughout the offseason was the debate over what the team should do in center field. Many speculated that the Yankees could shift Curtis Granderson to left field, and move incumbent left fielder Brett Gardner back to his natural position in the center of the outfield. However, it appears that as of right now, this move is not in the cards for Girardi and the Yankees. The Yankees’ skipper announced that if the season started today, Gardner would be in left field and Granderson would be in center. Girardi did acknowledge that these plans could change after being discussed further.
Joe Girardi noted that the team would likely need to shift its focus of their offense to succeed this season. He acknowledged that the team has lost over 100 home runs out of its lineup, and in order to succeed, will need to utilize more speed and less power. Girardi specifically mentioned Brett Gardner as an “outfielder who has the potential of stealing 50-60 bases if he stays healthy the whole year.” Despite the lack of power in the lineup, Girardi still likes the Yankees’ chances for 2013. "This team could win 95 games and get to the World Series,” said Girardi. “There's a lot of talent in that room.”
For Joe’s sake, as a lame duck manager, he needs this team to pull out 95 wins in an American League East that features a revamped Blue Jays squad, the always dangerous Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, and last year's Wild Card team, the Baltimore Orioles. However, if Girardi is nervous about his job security, he certainly does a good job of hiding it. When asked about a potential contract extension, Girardi noted, “I don't worry about where I'm going to be next year… I'm worried about the next 162 games and getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series.”
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