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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Yanks may have injuries, but they know how to win

Yanks may have injuries, but they know how to win play video for Yanks may have injuries, but they know how to win

TAMPA, Fla. -- So, Joe Girardi, is it getting tougher to remain optimistic?

"No, it's not," he said.

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How so?

"This is a club that I've seen go through this most of the time I've been here," Girardi said. "We've gone through it here and there with some injuries. Our guys have found a way. And I really believe they'll do that."

Even if they have to do things a different way?

"Even if we have to do it a different way, we'll find a way," Girardi said.

This has to be the mantra for the Yankees in these bizarre times. The Yanks know how to win. They still have pitching. The Yankees aren't awed by the American League East landscape.

When in doubt, Yankees fans, repeat as often as necessary.

Scouts making their way around the Grapefruit League have different opinions about the Yanks. Some say they're a last-place team. Some say that they've got enough pitching to keep them in the race until reinforcements arrive.

After being hit hard by free-agent defections over the winter, the Yankees have gotten a drip-drip-drip of bad news. Girardi spoke to reporters Monday after learning that first baseman Mark Teixeira had sustained a right wrist injury, but before reliever David Robertson was unable to get loose for a scheduled appearance against the Braves.

General manager Brian Cashman, who has had a bad week himself in sustaining a broken leg in a parachute jump, said he was worried about Teixeira, who''ll undergo more tests.

Curtis Granderson is gone, too, for about a month after breaking his forearm. The Bronx Bombers already had a thin margin for error after Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano and others departed via free agency.

At the moment, the Yankees are holding onto a couple of things. First, the AL East does not have a dominant team. The Blue Jays and Rays appear to be better than the Yanks, but it's unlikely either is going to run away from the pack.

Second, the Yankees know how to win. Don't laugh. This is a big, big deal. Confidence is critical. They still have Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, too.

The Yankees added Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Ichiro Suzuki, all respected pros. Whatever else you can say about these Yanks, they understand professionalism and preparation and staying the course in bad times.

"We'll see what happens," Pettitte said. "I know everybody in this room is extremely confident about what this club can do."

If you focus on the Yankees' losses, you'll miss the larger picture. Rivera may pitch in his first game on Wednesday. Jeter could be back in a few days. Granderson will return in May.

Instead of home runs, they'll have to score runs a different way, and there's no way of knowing if it'll work. At least, that's the hope. Brett Gardner is a huge part of the puzzle. Robinson Cano is essential. Youkilis, Hafner and Ichiro all need to be healthy and productive.

If the Yankees can pitch and play defense, they've got a puncher's chance of hanging around. If they stay close for half a season, things could change quickly.

Some of that talent at the lower levels of the Minor Leagues could begin moving through the system. Outfielders Mason Williams, Melky Mesa and Tyler Austin could end up in the picture as either contributors or trade chips.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Just when Granderson's broken forearm seemed to be the worst news possible, it got worse.

Only Cano, Jeter and Gardner are guaranteed to be in the lineup from Opening Day 2012.

And expectations haven't changed. When Pettitte was asked about maybe flying under the radar with lower expectations, he shook his head. Actually, I think his look said, "What planet have you been on?"

"We're expected to win this thing," he said. "You know that. If we don't make a run at a championship, it would be a huge disappointment."

Pettitte remains relentlessly optimistic, praising Cashman for his offseason acquisitions and emphasizing that he hasn't lost the faith.

"We're excited," Pettitte said. "We've added some guys who've been great. Youkilis. Hafner. They've been great around here. I really enjoy being around those guys. I feel like we have a pretty good club. Our pitching is in intact, and if you've got pitching, you're going to be able to be successful. I know I feel real good about the pitching we have.

"I understand there might be question marks about the lineup as far as losing some power. I've got no problem with hopefully having more contact guys who can put the ball in play and stuff like that. You've got to play the games."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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