Girardi implores Yankees to embrace spoiler role

Girardi implores Yankees to embrace spoiler role

NEW YORK -- The Yankees recognize that they are heading for their third October in four years that will not include a playoff game, but manager Joe Girardi wants his club to embrace a spoiler role in the final three contests of the season.

The Orioles have something on the line as they arrive at Yankee Stadium, aiming to lock up an American League Wild Card spot. Mark Teixeira's grand slam Wednesday kept the Red Sox from celebrating their AL East title on the field, and Girardi said he will be managing to win against Buck Showalter's club as well.

"I think it's important that we play the games the way they were meant to be played, as if they were the middle of the season or you were still fighting for the spot," Girardi said.

Brett Gardner (leg stiffness) and Starlin Castro (right hamstring) were not in Friday's lineup due to injury concerns.

"The last few weeks, we've just been running the same guys out there trying to fight to get back in this thing," Gardner said. "It's disappointing that we came up a little short."

Gardner said that he expects to play on Saturday, and he feels it is important to finish the year with a legitimate effort.

"We play 162 games. We've played 159," Gardner said. "We've got three left, and we're going to play hard. I think we're going to play to win. Obviously we're going to take these games importantly, and I think everybody in here wants to win and try to finish the season on strong note."

Girardi said that he has not yet decided if right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (mild right forearm strain) will start on Saturday; though Tanaka has said that he wants the ball, that starter is still listed as TBA, with Luis Cessa set to start game No. 162 on Sunday.

"There are also decisions that have to be made, the overall health of a player moving forward," Girardi said. "And sometimes that might trump what you're trying to do, the way you play the games.

"Obviously, there are long-term deals, big investments, that you have to talk about with certain players. That went into Gardy last night. If Gardy was retiring this year, I probably wouldn't have pulled him."

The Orioles have won five of six going into Friday's action, and Girardi said that he expects a consistent level of effort from his players even though there is no postseason reward at the end of the schedule.

"I think it affects players in a different way," Girardi said. "I think some players are obviously probably going to be more vocal about it than others, but I think our guys take a pride in what they do, and I think you've seen that all year. You've seen the fight in this club, and I don't think that'll stop."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.