Winter Meetings interview with Joe Girardi

Q. Joe, what did you think of the Robertson?

JOE GIRARDI: Obviously we're going to miss David. I think about really the seven years that he was with us, extremely important. He pitched in a ton of meaningful games where he was very successful. I'm happy for him because I feel like relievers get one shot at usually the long term contract. And he got that shot and he took full advantage of it. And we're going to miss him. He was a great young man to manage and had a lot of confidence in him. I wish him the best of luck, except against us.

Q. How much weaker are you without him?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, we feel that our bullpen is going to be very strong again. With the additions of Miller and Thomas and the development of Warren and Kelley, we feel like we have a number of great arms. Trying to hire another closer is something we have to do. I'm not really worried about that because of the arms we have down there, and I feel like we'll have a very good bullpen.

Q. Could you use a closer or could you do a mix and match?

JOE GIRARDI: We'll talk about it as Spring Training goes on to see what is the best situation. I think you have to figure out who is in your bullpen. And the one thing is that we feel that you look at four of the guys down there, Betances, Miller, Warren, Shawn Kelley, they all have significant amount of time in the back end and have been set up. So you could do probably a lot of different things. It could be dependent on how many days in a row a guy has worked. But like I said, we don't need to figure that out. But I like the arms that we have down there.

Q. In general how important do you feel it is going into the season knowing their roles, would it be okay to know they just close sometimes?

JOE GIRARDI: No, I think it's important they have an idea how they're going to be used. But sometimes it takes time to develop that. When we started out this season Betances was pitching the fifth and sixth inning. In the end he was pitching sometimes the sixth, seventh inning. So that takes time to get ironed out. Especially when you think about it, we know we have at least three new pieces in there. And could you have more? Possibly.

Q. How do you feel right now about the depth or lack thereof in your rotation?

JOE GIRARDI: There's some concerns, I think just because of guys coming off injuries. We feel good about them. We feel good about them coming back. Nova will not be ready for opening day. We'll have to wait a little bit, for sure. He's had a great rehab. Tanaka's rehab went well, and he pitched at the end of the year. CC's rehab has went well. But as we've seen, you need more than five starters, usually. You have to have some players that have the ability to do both. So we're going to have to see what our rotation is, where everyone is at.

Q. Is your thinking about Tanaka like any other starter, you're counting on him for 30, 35 starts or are you more nervous about him because of the situation?

JOE GIRARDI: No, we're counting on him to make his 32 starts. That's something we'll have to look at as the season progresses. We have a little bit more experience with him being on a five man rotation now than we had before. He seemed to do pretty well. He did get hurt. But a lot of times when you talk about guys that have that situation it's not necessarily one incident; it's over time. But he came back well. His velocity was there. His split was there. So it's just something I think you have to pay attention to.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)

JOE GIRARDI: I think he's a good young player that has a chance to blossom in New York. A very good defender. Had success with the bat last year with right handers, and is still young and has the ability to grow into a very good player. Hit his first home run at Yankee Stadium. That was like the one thing that was triggered in my mind when I heard that we traded for him. I remember him hitting a home run against us. I didn't realize it was the first, and I didn't realize it was in the month of April, 2013. But I think the most important thing for Didi, and I'll stress it, and I'll have all the coaches stress it and the people around him, you just need to be yourself. You don't need to try to be Derek. I think Robertson did a really good job of filling in for a superstar, a legend, a Yankee legend and was just himself. And we need to pay attention to that and make sure that Didi, hey, go out and play, just do what you do.

Q. Have you talked to him yet?

JOE GIRARDI: I have not had a chance to talk to him yet.

Q. Was it strange, given that you've seen over the years, as a player and coach and manager, you guys retained your players. Is it strange that two years in a row you've lost one of your homegrown All Star type players?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, sometimes it has to do with different situations and where we feel that we're headed. Yeah, but, you know, it did happen a lot, but I mean, at times it's going to. It's the nature of the revenue sharing and what TV contracts have allowed other clubs to do. I think the game has changed than it was 20 years ago.

Q. What would you consider your biggest needs right now?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, when I look at our club, I think you have to think about the depth of the rotation. And as I said, we're going to get Nova back, which is going to help. But in the back of your mind there's some question marks. Michael Pineda has not thrown 200 innings in a while. CC is coming off his injury. Yeah, we feel good about it, but until you get into the rigors of the season you're not really sure exactly what's going to happen. And Tanaka is coming off an injury, and we feel good about that. But like I said about CC, you have to go through it. You need depth in your rotation. You have to. I don't know how many starters we used last year, but I know we lost four. So we used a lot and that's something that's a concern.

Q. Joe, starting the possibility of Snyder at second, how do you feel about the youngsters?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I remember in 1996 we started with a youngster named Derek Jeter. And really, 1998 is when the youngster Jorge Posada took over. '96 we had a young setup guy in Mariano Rivera that was pretty good. So it happens. And we need our system to be productive and for our young players to come up and help us out. Because as I've said, the game has changed. And more clubs are able to bid on players than probably ever before. So the price goes up and sometimes you lose those players. I feel pretty good about our young kids that are coming. And it's not just Snyder or Pirela, there's more that you could talk about and that excites me.

Q. Regarding Gregorius, did you pursue him, was he on your radar screen and the contact he made with the Diamondbacks make a big deal?

JOE GIRARDI: When we sat down after the season we knew probably our main focus was shortstop that we had to address. And he was a name that popped up, as well as some other ones in that meeting that we had a lot of interest in.

Q. Talk about pitchers, if he didn't hit a certain spot on the gun, if you brought Maddux up, he said joking, I'm not even drafting. With the small ball, are prospects different and you're excited about the fact that guys realize maybe in this version of baseball, fundamentally sound, I make contact, got some speed, I've got a shot to actually play up there?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, I think so. I think the fundamentals are extremely important. And I think we've seen it more of a premium put on defense. We've seen more of a premium put on speed, just because the home runs are not what they used to be. And being able to go first to third and second to home has become extremely important. So I think the game is changing. I think it's going back a little bit to what it was before. And I think players are recognizing that.

Q. Do you find that it gives you a bigger pool, almost, to pull from, where if a guy stands out, if a guy wants to make himself that guy he's going to get a shot?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, I think they're going to get a shot. And I think it goes to show you that you're looking for complete players, not somebody that just hits the ball out of the ballpark.

Q. Have you spoken to Chase or Brandon?

JOE GIRARDI: I spoke with Chase, he had a new baby, I had a chance to speak about his new baby. I've not spoken with Brandon, no.

Q. Provided you don't sign Lester, how much would you like to pick a team outside the AL maybe?

JOE GIRARDI: Obviously we know how good of a pitcher he is. We've had the experience of facing him for a long time. So if he wants to go to the National League, that's okay with all of us, probably everyone in the American League.

Q. How much have you seen of Snyder, I know Pirela at the end of the year, defensively are they good enough

JOE GIRARDI: I don't think you can judge a player on three games. But if you look at the three games that Pirela had in Boston, he made every type of play; slow roller, ball to his right, to his left, turned a double play, made a tag play at second. And showed he has the ability to do it. Snyder I have not seen a lot of. I know that in half a year he had nine errors in Double A. In the second half in Triple A he only had three. So obviously there was a lot of improvement there. And I think that's what we're looking to see. This is a young man that played right field in college. Very excited about his bat and the ability to get on base and do some things. We feel like we have good prospects there.

Q. Seems like every team in the division looks different. Is it hard to handicap the division? I know everybody is not complete, but everybody is a lot different from manager to different

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, it has seemed to change a lot. There has been a lot of movement in and out of our division. So I think it's probably way too early to see where everyone is going to be at. With additions sometimes there's subtractions, and with subtractions maybe in August and September you're able to add guys now. So teams will look very different. A lot of new faces seem to be coming to the American League East and I'm interested to see what it's going to look like at the end.

Q. You mentioned starting rotations is one of your biggest concerns. You haven't been ranked to some of the bigger guys, do you think that's going to change? Do you think that's not the right impression coming out right now?

JOE GIRARDI: That's more of a question for Brian. I think everything is always subject to change when you're with the New York Yankees. But I'll leave that to Brian.

Q. Was your first thought after the Didi signing, became a reality, that Derek wouldn't be back?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah. I think the reality for me started to hit a little bit the last games in Boston. That that was going to be kind of it. And I think it will really hit when we're in Spring Training next year. And I made the joke that I might pencil him in one day in Spring Training and see if anybody notices him. It would have to be a home game, because he didn't go on all the road games. But yeah, it was like, okay, you know, Derek is gone. We're starting anew now. It's kind of a new era for the Yankees without Derek at shortstop. He's been there a very, very long time and played at a very high level. But I'll say it again, Didi, just be yourself.

Q. Talk about the prospect of the hitting coach.

JOE GIRARDI: We've had some interviews. And things have kind of got interrupted with the GM meetings and organizational meetings and changes in our organization and then coming down here. And we'll probably pick up again when this is all said and done, and we'll iron out our coaching staff.

Q. You mentioned four starting pitchers go down. You have a mindset that you want 32 or 33 starts. Do you think five is not enough, maybe seven is not enough, maybe nine is the right number? Is it different from when you played?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, but we always had guys that could fill in, whether it was a Mendoza or a Boehringer, and we've had that with Phelps. During the course of the season you're going to have an injury in your rotation. I'm not sure any team had five guys make 32 starts last year. It doesn't happen in today's game, for whatever reason. You have to have depth. You have to have quality depth, too.

Q. You played with other teams. When you were with the other clubs, are the last three outs different than when you're in the eighth inning or seventh inning, when you talk about transition, is that different? Why do you guys sometimes not able to do with that, what are the reasons?

JOE GIRARDI: I think it is a little bit different just because you feel that pitching in the seventh, if you give up a run and your team goes behind, there's time to catch up or there's someone that can maybe come in if I'm not getting it done. As the closer, you're kind of like a last second kicker, in a sense. So there's not really a safety net in a sense behind you. Your team can rally, that can happen. And I think what happens is pitchers allow the game to speed up, because for whatever reason in the ninth inning they get more adrenaline. And that's what you have to guard against. That's why I think you have to take it slow and figure out who's best for that spot.

Q. Is Warren definitely going to be in your bullpen or is he going to start?

JOE GIRARDI: We'll probably do a lot of the same things we did last year, is we'll have these guys start in Spring Training and see where we're at and where our rotation is at and what kind of depth we need.

Q. You managed (INAUDIBLE) what is it like having him back in the division?

JOE GIRARDI: It will be interesting to see him 19 times now. I had a very enjoyable season with Hanley when he was a rookie. And it was a lot of fun to watch his talent shine. He was a great young player and he's still a great player. I'm not necessarily looking forward to what he's capable of doing against us. But it will be good to see him.

Q. In the ideal world is Prado at second or third?

JOE GIRARDI: I don't think you have an ideal spot. Would you like to leave him at one spot? Yeah. But his versatility allows us to rest people at times. We might ask him to do that depending on the makeup of our club.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, we're not sure what he's going to do. That's a decision he has to make. And it's about the time a player either has in his heart, I want to come back, or It's time for me to retire. So it's a decision that he has to make.

Q. You've been really fortunate over the years to have veteran guys in the locker room. You mentioned Didi has a chance in New York, that's always a thing that every guy might not be suited to have ultimate successes there. Is it more important in a clubhouse like the Yankees, where you have guys that can slow it down, have guys to give the best chance to have success?

JOE GIRARDI: I think sometimes, yes, it's important to have the veteran guys that can help the young players out. It's important that all the other guys do their job so maybe the focus isn't on the one guy that might garner a lot of attention this year. But I also think it's easier when you have young guys to walk through quicker, because you have that same feeling. If you've played eight, ten years, yeah, you remember what it's like, but it's not real fresh in your mind. I always the thought it was important for young players to have other young players around them, because they're going through the same thing.

Q. You were pretty close with Cervelli. What does it mean that he's not there?

JOE GIRARDI: We're going to miss him. He was a good player for us. And came up, I want to say 2009 out of Double A and did some really good things for us and has done some really good things for us over the years. Unfortunately, he had the broken wrist, a collision at home plate, he broke his hand. And it's been unfortunate that he's had some of those health problems. But he's a player that was loved in the clubhouse. We loved his energy and the way he played the game. The way he went about his business. I'm happy that he gets an opportunity to play every day. I've said all along, I believe he's an everyday catcher, and he'll help someone. I think he'll help the Pirates.

Q. How is your communication with Alex?

JOE GIRARDI: It's good. We text, we email, we talk on the phone. We do different things, see videos. It's been good. I know he's working extremely hard. And that's going to be a hot button in Spring Training. And we've just got to go through Spring Training and see where he's at. He hasn't played a lot in two years. Bats break up from different spots, third, DH, or whatever, depending on the makeup of the club, we have to see where he's at.

Q. You guys have talked to us about maybe getting a third baseman, Brian said that he doesn't know where Alex is going to be. Have you talked to him that, You might be moving around a little bit?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I talked to him about first base. And I said, We'll talk about it in Spring Training, because let's see the makeup of our club. If we have another first baseman, if I want to give Teix a day off, then we can put the other one in there. If we don't, we could possibly move you over there. I'll see if he's comfortable and go from there.

Q. You said see videos. Have you seen ...

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, I've seen videos of him working out and trying to pay attention to where he's at.

Q. Looking good?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah.

Q. Hitting?

JOE GIRARDI: Hitting, running, a little bit of everything, lifting.

Q. Were you concerned about the distractions? It's obvious that it's going to be a little bit of a media circus.

JOE GIRARDI: You know, I think our guys will handle it well. I'm not so sure over the last three years, when he hasn't garnered a lot of attention when he's been in the clubhouse. Think about when he came back to Chicago, in San Diego, when he came back. So it's something we have to pay attention to, but I think our guys are up for it and have the experience and know how to handle it and we'll handle it.

Q. Has he worked out at all at first base?

JOE GIRARDI: No, we haven't had a chance to do that. If we did it we'd do it in Spring Training.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)

JOE GIRARDI: No, I have never seen him.

Q. Are you interested in bringing Hideki Matsui back as a coach?

JOE GIRARDI: We love having him around, wherever it's at, whether it's in the course of the season, whether he's walking in our clubhouse and being around the guys, whether it's in Spring Training. He's a real pro. And he has a lot of information that he can pass on to younger players, to older players, about how to play the game and how to approach an at bat, how you hit through a long season. Matsui was one of the favorites in the clubhouse, as well. And we love just having him around. He brings a smile to everyone's face.

Q. Everyone asked could he be a coach in the majors with the language issue.

JOE GIRARDI: I'm sure people could figure it out some way.

Q. What do you think of Kevin Cash taking over as manager of the Rays, the first time opportunity, obviously?

JOE GIRARDI: I think he'll do a good job. Got a chance to know Kevin from just different ways. And I think that he's always been a player that paid attention to detail. I think he understood what it took to win. I think he relates well to players. So I think he'll do a good job.