Winter Meetings interview with Joe Girardi

Winter Meetings interview with Joe Girardi

Q. Joe, what would you say is your team's greatest need, not just this week, but the off-season in general?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, when I look at our team, most of our spots are pretty filled in a sense. You look at second base, that's a question for us. There's some concerns when you look at our rotation, some guys coming off injuries, how is that going to pan out. And some bullpen spots. We know that the back end is pretty secure. But when you start putting a bullpen where you need seven people, there's a few spots that will have to be ironed out and we'll to have figure out. A lot of it is figuring out which young kids are going to help us during the course of the year.

Q. So there's no one piece that you're looking to get?

JOE GIRARDI: I think that the one spot that's probably open for competition more than anything is second base.

Q. What are you looking for ideally at that position?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I mean, you could be greedy. You look for outstanding defense and offensive production. I mean, that's the greedy part of it; that you can get a lot of production, too, offensively. I thought Ref did a good job what he came up last year and played that last week. I thought he did a good job for us. Ackley showed that he can really hit in our ballpark. We would probably be trying to figure out a platoon system there possibly, or if one guy took it and ran with it. But I think the defense is really important.

Q. It's been a pretty quiet winter for you guys so far. Do you get a little bit antsy when you see one of your main division rivals like the Red Sox be as active as they have been and improve themselves, at least on paper as much as you say they have?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, we understand that that's going to happen. You know, people have talked to me a lot about, well, the Yankees are a team that usually makes a big splash. Well, we've been making a lot of big splashes the last five or six years. You look at our position players, they are all on long-term contracts. You look at our pitchers, they are on long-term contracts. For us to go out and add big pieces, I didn't expect that to happen. Yeah, on paper, Boston has improved their club. Obviously they have added to their rotation with David Price, who has pitched extremely well, and they have added to their bullpen with the guys that they obtained over the last couple weeks. But you've always got to play the game on the field.

Q. The landscape, to that point has changed, hasn't it, where the Diamondbacks signed Greinke, the Giants signed Samardzija, the Red Sox made a splash and you guys have $170 million in contracts that are all held over.

JOE GIRARDI: I think the one thing that's really changed in the game is you used to see probably more often clubs make a big splash every two or three years, the big clubs. Well, you've got a lot of guys that are signing six- and seven-year deals now, and that has changed. So I think that when you make big splashes, a lot of times it's spread out more because guys are signed to such longer deals.

Q. How do you feel about the rotation if you guys don't add anything more?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think there's depth there but there's questions about health, because you have guys -- Tanaka coming off a minor surgery. You have -- I guess you can say there's no surgery that's really minor when it's to a pitcher's arm. You have Michael coming back after throwing a lot of innings last year. Nova should be better a year removed from his surgery. I think until you see him throwing in Spring Training and throwing the ball like he's capable of, you wonder a little bit. I think those are some of the concerns. We do have guys that we feel that can step up. Seve did a great job for us and you look at him to be in our rotation. And we have some depth, but we have some concerns.

Q. After last year with A-Rod -- is it reasonable to expect that again?

JOE GIRARDI: I definitely think it's possible. I wouldn't shortchange these guys because they work very hard and they are very smart players. I look at what Teix did for us. He was an MVP candidate the first four months, and unfortunately he had that break in his leg that hurt us. Even what Alex did, I think it's the first time he's hit 30-plus homers since 2010. They are both a year older. Maybe you have to give them a day off here a little bit more, but I feel that going into next year, I think our depth is probably going to be a little bit better and we'll be able to do that.

Q. Do you have any question that CC can come back from his personal issues that he's dealt with in the off-season?

JOE GIRARDI: No, you know, I've seen him probably two or three times, had some conversations with him. I feel pretty good about where he's at. I've seen him working out at the ballpark. He's working hard. He did the right thing. He went and got help. I think I would be more concerned if he didn't go get help. That would be a bigger concern for me. Obviously he has things that he has to keep in check and as an organization, we will help him and his teammates will help him. The interesting thing about that was, it was probably the best month that he had had, the best four or five starts that he had put together before he decided to go get help. So I think the knee brace was helping him and I think will continue to help him as he's comfortable with it.

Q. How much do you think this team needs more athleticism?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, I think it's important. We have some really good athletes when you look at the Gardies and Ells and Didi. And then we have some players that are home run hitters that don't run quite as well. We added Hicks who I think is a great athlete. He will help that. I think with some of the youth that we have coming up, that will help, as well. But, I mean, we won a lot of games with the guys that we had last year. And we had our share of injuries. We lost that knack a couple times, Michael Nova, we didn't have him till the middle, we had to shut Warren down in the rotation, we lost Teix. We had a number of things we had to deal with. We lost Ellsbury for a substantial amount of time, and the guys overcame it. The big thing for me is keeping healthy. And I think we'll continue to get more athletic as you see an influx of our youth coming up.

Q. Do you think Alex can repeat the performance he had last season? He said it himself, the year off, the rest helped him. Do you think he can accomplish that next year?

JOE GIRARDI: I can't tell you exactly what he's going to do. You could look at it a couple different ways. You could say that he's a year older now, can he do what he did last year. But you can also say, he has a better idea of what his role is and how to handle that role. Maybe does it require a day off here more here and there? Yeah, maybe it does. But I think he can still be very productive. I don't know if he'll hit 30-plus home runs, but I think he can still drive in a ton of RBIs.

Q. How about first base, A-Rod playing first base?

JOE GIRARDI: My first thought is no, but see how we are constructed when we go to Spring Training.

Q. Greg Bird's age, do you think the idea of Greg Bird playing a couple days a week, and to spell each of them, giving him four days a week of at-bats, is something you would consider?

JOE GIRARDI: I think when you look at what Greg Bird did for us, it was extremely impressive for us last year, the job that he did. And we believe that he's going to be here for a long time. I think you have to see how your team shapes up, and things always have a way of working out. I mean, that's the bottom line. And for a lot of our young players, they were on that carousel where they were going back and forth, they were going back and forth, and I kept reminding them, you know what, make sure you're the guy that's pitching well and don't go down and get frustrated. We told you this is going to be a revolving door because we have to keep fresh arms. And it's something you might do with your position players, too, to spell them for a couple days here and there and call some guys up. You know, is he in the mix? Yeah, of course he's in the mix right now. I can't tell you what's going to happen when camp breaks because I don't know exactly what's going to be there and if there is a spot for us. Teix is our first baseman. That's the bottom line. Greg is going to be here a long time.

Q. How do you feel about going into the season, if you do, with Ackley and Refsnyder --

JOE GIRARDI: It's something we'll have to look in how they handle the position. As I said, you can be greedy and you want offense and defense both. I think the defense is very important and it's not a place that Ack has played a lot lately, but he'll get a lot of work there in Spring Training.

Q. Is there something to be gained from Bird going back?

JOE GIRARDI: Those things happen sometimes where you feel it's better to allow a guy to play every day so if something does happen, he's ready to go and he's used to playing every day. You know, most players in the Big Leagues have been up, have been down, and have been back up. Especially if it's a productive player. There's not a lot of guys that once they come up, they just stay. There's some growing pains there, or there's some things that happen that are out of your control. The one thing that you have to know as players is that we are not afraid to call people up. We believe in our people. I believe in Greg Bird and he's going to be a very productive player, but you've just got to handle your business, and whatever happens, happens, and take care of the things that you can control.

Q. What did you think of Refsnyder's development in the short time he was in and out? Do you think he has the capability if you play him to develop like Didi did?

JOE GIRARDI: I think he made a lot of progress. The thing about him was he was an outfielder when he started. When I think about trying to develop a middle infielder, even a third baseman today, it's so different than it was before because of the shifts and all of the things that you have to know. Second basemen now have to throw from the shortstop side of the diamond. They have to turn double plays sometimes a little bit different because maybe there's three guys on that side of the diamond and it's hit to the third baseman and you have to get to second coming to the third base side. So there's a lot of things to learn. Will he grow in the position? Absolutely. And the more he plays, the better he's going to get.

Q. How disappointed were you that Price stayed in the division and how much stronger are the Red Sox?

JOE GIRARDI: They have definitely improved their ballclub. You look at him and what he does for the rotation, and you look at him, they have definitely improved their club. The funny thing about this game is a roster can change quickly depending on some of the things that happen, whether it's health or sometimes a guy is struggling that you don't expect to struggle. So the bottom line is you've got to play the games on the field and you have to go out and compete. We did that last year and we're going to have to do it again.

Q. Speaking to that point, do you feel in an emergency -- it's been three years since you've gotten to the Division Series, what is the mind-set this year?

JOE GIRARDI: Our mind-set is to go to the World Series. That's what you go to work for in the winter and Spring Training and during the season. That's what our goal is, is to get back there and that's what we're going to do.

Q. Do you think your roster can do that?

JOE GIRARDI: I think when we enter Spring Training, our roster is going to be an improved roster and I think our guys are capable of getting there. Last year we got into the one-game playoff, and that's not what you want and that's very difficult. You look at Pittsburgh, that's been a very good team for the last couple years and this year they were knocked out and they won, what, 97, 98 games. That's the one thing you want to avoid.

Q. So you're building your team for the 162?

JOE GIRARDI: Yes.

Q. Is there anything you learned from playing the one game beside you don't want to be in it?

JOE GIRARDI: Don't get in it.

Q. You mentioned the possible relationship building you might have to do with Jacoby; have you spoken with him?

JOE GIRARDI: I saw him at the ballpark. He stayed for a couple weeks. Obviously he has a new addition to his family and we are very happy for him. I feel good about our relationship. There's communication there. You know, we'll go into Spring Training and that's when we're around each other every day. You know, I did -- and it's my job. I had to make a tough decision. I had two guys that both were every day players. Both you could make an argument why one should play and not the other. It was difficult. And it's not like Brett Gardner was a rookie that just came up. This is another guy that is making a lot of money, is an everyday player. So it was a tough decision. I did what I thought was best. I think the guys understand that, and I think things will be fine.

Q. Why do you think Ellsbury is going to be better in year three?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, I think sometimes when you come back from an injury, you could be healthy, but you can still in the back of your mind favor things a little bit. And I think that's possible that that's what happened. This is a really good player and this is a very talented player, and before he got hurt, he was as good a player as was playing during the course of the season and I think we'll see that again.

Q. If there are no major moves, and it's a very similar roster what you ended the season with, what's the biggest way that you will be able to do better? Is it just the health of the starting pitchers?

JOE GIRARDI: I think it's a number of things. I think it's the health of the pitchers. I think it's guarding Ellsbury. I think Hicks has a chance to help those guys in spelling them and keeping them healthy and strong. I think our depth is better because of what our young kids have done and they know they can do it. I think that improves your club. And those are the major things.

Q. Do you think it's important to keep both Gardner -- you mentioned Gardy and Ellsbury. Do you think it's important to keep them both?

JOE GIRARDI: I love having both of them. I think, you know, at times, you looked at them, they were a huge part of our offense. Now, I know guys names get mentioned in trades and that happens all the time, but I love them both.

Q. Do you think you'll get Judge a real good look in Spring Training? How much do you think he'll get to play?

JOE GIRARDI: He'll get a chance to play a lot in Spring Training. I can't tell you exactly what's going to happen, but here is a young man that had some struggles in AAA and probably needs to finish off his development. But sometimes there's surprises in camps and you never know.

Q. Do you have a number in your mind about how much you want McCann to catch this year?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, you try to keep it around somewhere between 100 and 120 games. 120 is pushing it a little bit. You know, he wants to play every day, and sometimes I've got to tell him, You're going to take a day here. But I think you see how he's doing. You know, you look at the two catchers that we have, Sanchez is very talented, had a very good Fall League. Austin Romine I think made some huge strides last year in AAA and we feel good about our catching. But I know his bat is important to us and I have to keep him healthy.

Q. Basically a six, seven inning player now that he's in the outfield --

JOE GIRARDI: I think if you have a player like Hicks on the bench, that's another center fielder. If you have the lead and you're comfortable with the lead, and his bat maybe is not going to mean anything in a sense, you make that change. And we did that last year. There's another thing that helped. Whenever you can give him a couple innings, I think it's going to help him physically. And we saw how productive he was for us the last two months.

Q. What do you expect to see from Severino after a full year at the top of the rotation?

JOE GIRARDI: I think that's a lot to and from him. I think he'll continue to get better. I think his secondary stuff will continue to improve. I think he has a better idea what he has to do to be successful at this level. There will be some adjustments he has to make because teams have seen him once, twice, maybe even three times in our division. But this is a smart kid and this is a very talented kid. The thing is you don't take for granted what got you here and you continue to work hard.

Q. Who replaces C.Y. --

JOE GIRARDI: Hicks is that guy.

Q. Seeing Murphy going off to Minnesota --

JOE GIRARDI: I believe the young man is going to hit, I do. I don't necessarily think that he's a 25, 30 home run guy, but I think he's going to hit and I think he's going to be productive. I think he's improved dramatically as a catcher, from the time he was drafted as a third baseman. He's very smart. He works very hard. He has an idea what he wants to do. I think it's a good trade for both teams, and I think he'll be a good Big League catcher.

Q. What is the biggest thing he has to do to be that?

JOE GIRARDI: I think it's making adjustments as clubs make adjustments to you and getting used to playing every day again. That's the thing for the catcher, the fatigue that you experience as you go down the stretch and how to continue being productive when you have that fatigue.

Q. With your rotation, do you think you need another arm in the rotation, or what you have, one, two, three, is enough?

JOE GIRARDI: I think our guys are capable of getting it done. But the thing is, you have to keep them out there for 30 to 32 starts. Tanaka pitched well again last year, but we lost him twice. One was kind of a freak, strained his hammy a little bit. But that sometimes happens in National League games. I think Michael Pineda, there's no inning concerns about him this year. He got an a roll, but we had to protect him and he kind of got out of that roll. We expect Nova to be better when he comes back a year removed. I think our rotation has a chance to be good. But we've got to keep them out there.

Q. You guys worked early in the year with the minors to keep Severino's innings down so he wouldn't be limited when he joined you in August. Will you have an innings situation next year?

JOE GIRARDI: I don't know if there's a limit, if there is, it's very short. I don't know how many innings he ended up with this year, I think 140-ish. We'll have to watch him, because the rigors of a Big League season is different than a Minor League season because it's longer, but I don't expect a huge limit on him.

Q. Was Tanaka's elbow barking with the bone spur?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, he never complained about it. Very similar to the day he came in, April 27, I was looking at it the other day when he came in and said he felt something. He threw his bullpen, threw a good bullpen, the day before he started, he was like, I feel something. It wasn't anything I expected because he was pitching well. Sometimes adrenaline takes over. But it wasn't something we were doing treatment on.

Q. So what did they do, did they send him in for an MRI?

JOE GIRARDI: They said after the season, felt a little something back there --

Q. Sent him in for an MRI and they figured it out?

JOE GIRARDI: Yeah.

Q. How would you describe --

JOE GIRARDI: I think he had his ups and downs, but it was mostly defensively, where he played extremely well at times, and at times he struggled. This is a guy that worked really hard and worked really hard all year. I don't expect him to have those struggles this year. It's important we get him back to where he was when he had him the year before.

Q. Looking back on it, is there any reason to think that might have been back related?

JOE GIRARDI: No, I don't think so. I think it's more of getting his feet under him sometimes and that sort of thing. But, no, I mean, he really never complained about his back. His test after the season, he came out well, so we feel good about that.

Q. Do you consider last season to have been a successful one?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, you could look at that a couple different ways. I'm proud of what our guys did and how hard they played. I thought they gave me everything they had. But there's a lot of disappointment when you lose in the first round and you don't get to where you want. That's the hard thing, because it ends so abruptly. You fight like crazy for 162 games and you get into a one-game playoff and both teams expect to win, and, you know, we pitched pretty well. We don't score any runs. It's frustrating. You consider that, we didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish.