Joe Girardi: So many questions. - Joe Robbins
How can a manager comment on his team when his team doesn't exist?
I would like to give you a great many quotes from Joe Girardi's formal appearance here. I suppose I will, somewhere in the body of this dispatch. However, I warn you ahead of time that the dialogue will not be an especially revealing one. Girardi shed no further light on the timeline of Alex Rodriguez's injury. As he has no idea who his third baseman, catcher, or right fielder is, he can't really say anything concrete about his team. Could Rodriguez be replaced by one player? Several players? A platoon? Sure. Could the Yankees go with two catchers to replace the departed Russell Martin?
Sure, Girardi said. "We always have two catchers. Sometimes three." Cue the laugh track.
In summary, the only thing that's certain now is uncertainty. Even the recent past is a mystery. "He wasn't the Alex we saw before the injury," Girardi said. "Now we have a reason as to possibly why. Alex could have bowed out and said, 'I'm not going to play. He kept playing. He kept trying to play and kept trying to be productive for us. But obviously he wasn't even sure what was going on."
Girardi admitted that Rodriguez could be primarily a designated hitter upon his return. "I hope I get to make that decision in June. That would be really nice." That's another unknown, you see -- when Rodriguez returns and what he'll be able to do once he does. With both Rodriguez and Derek Jeter coming off injuries at an advanced age, Girardi was asked if range on the left side of the infield would be a problem. "As long as they come back healthy ..." he began, their post-injury abilities being yet another of those quantum states that have yet to collapse. "When you have these kinds of injuries, you do worry about setbacks ... but I do think Derek is progressing well. We've seen him in a walking boot and starting doing some things. Alex we're not going to until we get a little bit further down the road."
"You're always going to worry until you see them out there," Girardi said, referring not just to Rodriguez and Jeter but Mariano Rivera as well. See, he just doesn't know what he's got. The best he can offer at this moment is that the Yankees will eventually know who their third baseman is. "I can tell you by opening day we'll have something, we'll have a resolution to it. It's something we're addressing during these meetings. I don't know if it's necessarily going to happen in these next two or three days at these winter meetings, but by spring training we'll have a resolution to it."
It seems that an outside acquisition is inevitable. "We don't really have a lot of internal people" for the third base position, the manager said before mentioning that David Adams has played some third base in the minors and largely ruling out Eduardo Nunez. Asked if the Yankees would need to seek a legitimate everyday starter for the hot corner both to survive Rodriguez's injury and to ensure against the possibility of a setback, Girardi said he thought they would.
Girardi said he wasn't unsettled by having so much unsettled right now. "I think I've gotten used to seeing moves made fairly late. I know from the internal discussions we've had that we're going to have people in place by the time spring training is here. Of course, everyone wants to know right now what are the Yankees going to be and who are the Yankees going to be in 2013. I don't get too worried about it. Now, if it was February 4th, February 5th, I'd be a little bit more worried if those people weren't in place."
If the Yankees go to spring training with the only catchers on the roster being Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and Austin Romine on the roster, the job would be an open competition. "It's not easy replacing an everyday catcher. Russell was big for us in the last couple of months last year. I was very proud of him. He never took his at-bats behind home plate, he just kept going at it and going at it. But it's the life that we live. Sometimes changes happen and you have to adjust to the changes and you can't say 'What if?' or 'I really wish I had this guy.' You've got to move on."
Other things Girardi doesn't know: how the Yankees' new budget-mindedness will affect the team if it needs to make acquisitions, thinking the real impact won't be felt until midseason 2014. And if his new lineup resolves in a way that it's less potent than the old one, Girardi might or might not change his style or tactics. "Depends what type of players I have. Your managerial style is dependent on what kind of players you have to a certain extent. I've often talked about that you're not going to hit and run with guys who swing and miss and you're not going to steal with guys who are slow. Depending on what type of players we have, it could change some." Again, he doesn't know.
He does feel "pretty good" about the rotation. "They key for these guys is to stay healthy." CC Sabathia's rehab "is coming along great." Addressing the exact composition of the rotation, Girardi said the top four would be Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes," but, continuing the afternoon's theme, "There are no guarantees." David Phelps or Ivan Nova will compete for the fifth spot.
Stay tuned for more, indefinitely, until forever ... or possibly tomorrow. That's the fun of the winter meetings and the pain of having a team that is simultaneously fragile and being defunded. "We're still going to have a high payroll," Girardi pleaded, "We're still going to have a lot of quality guys out there." But as we all know, having a high payroll is not the same thing as having a highly talented team.