Offseason updates from Yankees manager Joe Girardi

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was among those on hand this morning at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees and the USO took over the Great Hall to help produce more than 5,000 gift packs that will be delivered to active servicemen and servicewomen in remote areas of Afghanistan this holiday season.

Girardi spent about 15 minutes speaking with the media, his first public comments since the end-of-season press conference following the final game of the year. Alex Rodriguez’s preparation and return to the active roster dominated much of the conversation, but there were also other notable topics discussed.

Here’s a rundown, kicking off with the non-Alex talk:

On David Robertson turning down the Yankees’ qualifying offer: “David was great for us. You know that you face those situations every time that people have the opportunity to become free agents. He’s been a tremendous pitcher, he has helped us be very successful here and helped us be a World Series club as well. He was great.”

On the hope to bring back Robertson on longer term deal: “Yeah, I think anytime you’re negotiating and things like this happen, your hope is that the players are always going to come back.”

On Chase Headley: “He really shored up our defense on that side, played a great third base, grinded out at-bats. Had some big hits for us and showed an extreme amount of toughness and was great in the clubhouse.”

On Dellin Betances as an option at closer: “Well, obviously, he did a very good job last year. It’s somewhat of a different mentality, but there were days that he had to close the game out in the fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning. It’s a step. I think he’s capable of handling it. We have not named a closer, I can’t tell you who we’re going to sign and what we’re going to do, but obviously with what he did last year, you have a lot of belief in him.”

On Brandon McCarthy: “He pitched really well. We’ve seen him pitch like that before against us. He struggled in Arizona for whatever reason, but he pitched really well for us. … He showed he had the ability to pitch in NY and I think that’s important, too.”

On the Yankees’ most pressing needs for 2015: “I think there’s some question marks in our starting rotation, No. 1. There’s some questions in our bullpen and there’s some question marks on what our infield is going to be. Those are the big things we need to address. I think our outfield is fairly set, and there’s some health questions that we have. We expect Carlos (Beltran) to be 100 percent, we expect CC (Sabathia) to be 100 percent, we expect (Masahiro) Tanaka to be 100 percent, but you have to prepare in case something goes on, that you have depth.”

On naming Kevin Long’s replacement as hitting coach:
”There’s no exact timetable. Obviously you’d like to round out your staff, but I’ve managed teams where we didn’t round out our staff until Christmas.”

On his reaction to Long’s dismissal:
 “He worked very hard for us, and him and I had a very good relationship and talked about a lot of different things concerning the game. Obviously when you don’t win, a lot of times there’s going to be changes. Sometimes it’s in my spot. Sometimes it a coach’s spot. Sometimes it’s in the front office. Sometimes it’s players. It’s part of the business. He had a very good run here and was productive for us.”

On other health updates:
 “(Martin) Prado is doing well. Gardy (Brett Gardner) is doing well. CC’s been doing well. Carlos has been doing well. All these guys. (Ivan) Nova’s been doing well; very pleased with where he’s at. So, we’re happy, but we’re a long ways away and they’re not on the field yet.”

On Tanaka: 
”Everything’s OK. But he really hasn’t done much, so it’s hard to say.”

On Sabathia: 
”He’s been throwing. Everything’s been up and up on him, and he comes in here — I don’t know — three times a week? Three or four times a week? Something like that. Everything’s good. We like where he’s at, but we’re a long ways from April 1 or whenever we open.”

And now, without further delay, let’s hit the A-Rod content…

On having spoken to A-Rod: “Yeah, I’ve talked to him. Stayed in touch. He’s working out, trying to prepare himself to be an everyday player next year. Obviously he’s played 40 games in the last two years, I think. We’re going to have to see where he’s at in Spring Training, but he’s working and he’s trying to get prepared.”

On A-Rod’s position: “We’re preparing him to play third base, but like I said, I think you have to see. Obviously we believe there’s going to be some DH days in there. You’ve got to see where he’s at. I mean, he is going to be 40, he hasn’t played a whole lot in the last couple of years. But our hope is that he comes back and is a very productive player for us.”

On how many games A-Rod can play: “It’s like with Jeet. I think you have to see how they’re doing physically every day and how they’re responding when they’re playing five, six, seven days in a row and if they can do that. It’s really too early to really predict that.”

On A-Rod’s mindset: “I think he’s excited to get back on the field. We all know Alex. That’s what he loves to do, he loves to play. He loves to compete. I’m sure he’s excited. It’s getting closer.”

On A-Rod possibly playing first base: “I just brought it up. I said, on a day that we give Tex a day off, maybe it’s something that we’ll think about. He said we can talk about it, obviously. We’ll talk about it more as the season goes on, but I think you have to see. I think what I want to do is give him a little preparation. Depending on what happens over the winter and the makeup of our club, it could be possible that I might ask you to do that.”

On seeing A-Rod in person: “No, not yet. We’ve talked on the phone, we text. We’ve e-mailed. We’ve done a lot of things, and it’s been on a pretty regular basis.”

On A-Rod’s litigation and other legal issues: “I’m not worried about that. My job is worrying about preparing him to play, and making sure that he’s prepared and how he’s doing physically every day.”

On A-Rod’s workouts so far: “It’s weights. Yeah, he’s doing some (baseball) stuff. We don’t need him to do a whole lot. The normal process is you start throwing in January. There’s no reason to start throwing really early. It’s not going to put him any farther ahead. He’s taken some swings. Right now, it’s physically get your body ready to play 162 games.”

On how to handle A-Rod’s spring workload: “I think you have to see how he’s physically doing. There’s ways you can be creative, you can send him to Minor League games to give him eight or nine at-bats a day, maybe DH him a little bit more. Until we get there, until I see how he’s doing physically and how he’s responding, it’s really hard to predict. You just try to prepare him best you can.”

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