NEW YORK – With a chance to advance to the American League Championship Series, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will be piloting his team with a heavy heart on Thursday following the recent passing of his father.
Jerry Girardi died Saturday in Metamora, Ill. at age 81, and Girardi said that he received notification of his father’s passing as the Yankees were traveling to Baltimore to open the American League Division Series.
Until Thursday, Girardi only passed along word to a handful of Yankees staff members, not not want to distract from the club’s postseason efforts against the Orioles.
“I didn’t really want to talk about it,” Girardi said. “I didn’t want to take away from what we were trying to do here, because I know my dad wouldn’t. The one thing my parents always taught me was, finish the job at hand.”
Girardi will manage in Game 4 of the American League Division Series tonight at Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees will observe a moment of silence for Jerry Girardi prior to the game. Funeral services will take place on Monday at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Tampico, Ill.
“I think the best way to describe it is, if I could be half the husband and half the father my dad is, I’d do pretty good,” Girardi said. “He was always there for me, even though he was working three jobs, he was always there for me. He taught me the value of hard work and perseverance, family and the important things in life.”
The Yankees lead 2-1 in their five-game series with the Orioles and can advance to the AL Championship Series with a win on Thursday. Girardi said that it was not a difficult decision for him to stay with the Yankees after learning of his father’s passing.
“I didn’t want to take away from the focus of what the club was trying to do,” Girardi said. “I didn’t want people to worry about me. My dad had always taught me, my mom too — persevere and finish the job. We have an expectation here and a job we’re trying to finish here.”
Jerry Girardi suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and had been living in an assisted care facility in Metamora, Ill. Girardi said that his last visit to his father came in August during the Yankees’ trip to play the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
“[He was a] huge Cubs fan, loved the other sports, loved basketball, played a year at Bradley,” Girardi said. “We played in the backyard. He was tough on me when we played basketball. I mean, he’d knock me down. He taught me about how to get back up.”
Jerry Girardi was born on May 5, 1931, and married Angela Perino in 1959 in Tampico, Ill. The couple had five children: John, George, Maria, Joe and Jerry. Girardi is also survived by six grandchildren. Angela Girardi died in 1984.
Girardi served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He later worked in construction sales for National Gypsum Company, and he also worked as a bricklayer.
“At times he would be working three jobs at once to support the five kids,” Girardi said. “So he was a salesman, he would bartend at night a couple nights a week, he would lay bricks on the weekend which he took me to do that with him; taught me that.
“He gave me my first $100 bill at 7 years old because I worked four days with him and was covered in black mortar; we were doing a fireplace. It was a special relationship. Wherever my dad was, I was right behind him.”
Here is a story I wrote a few years back about Girardi’s relationship with his father.
Raul Ibanez came into this season filling a part-time role with the Yankees, brought in primarily to serve as one half of a designated hitter platoon with Andruw Jones. You never would have known that by watching his preparation routine. There was nothing half-hearted about the way Ibanez did anything; his regimen before each game was a marathon of constant, compartmentalized activity.
Where’s Ibanez? He’s in the batting cage, taking optional hitting. He’s in the weight room, doing extra sets. He’s buried in a video screen, studying the movements of a pitcher he might or might not face. I honestly don’t think I ever saw him sitting at his locker staring off into space; not once. This all obviously helps him keep up with players nearly half his age and — I’m sure — leads to moments like last night.
But now, as I think back on trying to pin down Ibanez for a longer interview in April at the Stadium, I remember being frustrated by the three straight days I chased him, and I chuckle a little bit. It wasn’t personal; a long chat just didn’t fit into his schedule for the day. His work ethic is what got him here, and it’s what’s keeping him here.
It’s no wonder that he was able to come off the bench ready to hit two homers, the game-tying ninth inning shot off Jim Johnson and the game-winning 12th inning blast off Brian Matusz.
“I was always pretty good, but I got overshadowed by other players that were better,” Ibanez told me then, multitasking even at that moment by wrapping the handles of his bats in tape. “There were always other players that were better. That’s why it’s really all about working hard and outworking everybody else.”
That could be why Ibanez, who turned 40 in June, says he is the only one still lacing up his spikes and playing ball among the group of talented athletes he grew up with in the Miami area.
“If you outwork everybody else, and you have a fire and a passion, that will take you further than pure, raw talent,” Ibanez said.
He believes that intense work ethic comes from his father, Juan, who was a chemist in Cuba but lacked the background to perform the same tasks in the United States. The elder Ibanez found work instead with Carnival Cruise Lines, filling a variety of roles, and his son never heard him complain about the grind.
“He was a very hard-working man,” Ibanez said. “He was never late to work. He never missed any days of work. If he was sick, he went to work. I think I just got it from him.”
This afternoon, as Ibanez’s Yankees sit one win from advancing to the American League Championship Series, all of those long hours must seem worth it.
Derek Jeter was surrounded during batting practice by a swarm of media, peppering him with a variety of questions. Here are his thoughts on the ALDS, Pete Rose’s doubts about Jeter catching the all-time hits king, and the Yankees’ struggles with runners in scoring position.
Being back at Yankee Stadium…
“We enjoy playing here. Obviously it’s our home fans and pretty energetic, so we’re looking forward to it.”
“It’s fun. This is what you play for. We have the greatest fans in the world, in my opinion. I don’t want to disrespect any other fans. This is why you play the game, to get an opportunity to play in October and hopefully get to the World Series.”
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez has been good…
“So we have no chance, right? I don’t pay attention to it. It’s the playoffs, it’s baseball. Anything can happen. We have to go out and have good at-bats and hopefully score some runs.”
“I’m not talking about Pete Rose, man. We’re trying to win a game here.”
Don’t care about Rose’s comments?
“What do you think?”
Lots of talk about A-Rod…
“I don’t pay attention. I don’t read the papers, I don’t watch TV, I don’t do any of that during the playoffs, and pretty much during the season anymore. I don’t pay attention to it. I come here and try to win games.”
Confident in him?
“Yep, he’s one of the reasons we’re here.”
Any pregame routines or rituals?
“I wouldn’t say rituals, it’s a routine to get ready. It’s pretty much the same, but I’m not really superstitious.”
Struggling with RISP?
“Yeah, we shouldn’t play any more with guys on base. The bottom line is you get to this point and teams are here pretty much because they have good pitching. Pitchers are going to bear down and with runners in scoring position, they’re going to make good pitches. It’s not like we’re out there just facing a machine throwing the ball over the plate. They’re going to make pitches. Sometimes pitchers are better than you, and other times, you’re going to get them. I’m going to assume pitchers aren’t going to throw batting practice with runners in scoring position, but we have to find a way to score runs.”
Thanks to MLB.com’s Steven Miller for gathering the quotes.
2012 AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 3
BALTIMORE ORIOLES (1-1/93-69) at NEW YORK YANKEES (1-1/95-67)
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25)
Wednesday, October 10 • 7:37 p.m. et • TBS • Yankee Stadium
Nate McLouth LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Davis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Jim Thome DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Manny Machado 3B
Miguel Gonzalez RHP
Derek Jeter SS
Ichiro Suzuki LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Russell Martin C
Eric Chavez 3B
Hiroki Kuroda RHP
Game information from the Yankees’ media relations team:
HIRO’S WELCOME: Tonight, RHP Hiroki Kuroda will become the first Japan-born player to make a postseason start with the Yankees.
ð Went 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA (132.1IP, 40ER) in 19 starts at Yankee Stadium, the seventh-best home ERA in the AL in 2012.
ð Pitchers making their first postseason start as a Yankee have gone 8-6 since 2000.
THE CAPTAIN’S POSTSEASON LOG: SS Derek Jeter has played 154 career postseason games, batting .309 (195-for-632) with 109R, 31 doubles, 20HR and 60RBI… is a career .345 (88-for-255) batter in ALDS games, hitting safely in 13 of his last 14 contests dating back to 2007 (.323, 20-for-62).
ROOKED: The Yankees are 16-14 vs. rookie starting pitchers in 2012 (including postseason), with wins in 11 of their last 15 matchups.
ð The Yankees are facing two different rookie starters in the same postseason series for just the third time… also happened in the 1955 World Series vs. Brooklyn when they lost to Roger Craig in Game 5 at Ebbets Field and defeated Karl Spooner in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium; and the 1952 World Series win vs. Brooklyn, when the Dodgers had four games started by rookies (Joe Black – Gms 1, 4 and 7 and Bill Loes – Gm 6).
NEW YORK YANKEES
Q. You pitched a pretty good game against this team about a month ago in their ballpark. What do you remember about that game specifically, and what do you take from that going into tomorrow?
PHIL HUGHES: I remember it was probably the first or second game that I really used my slider quite a bit, and I think that could be a big pitch against this team that really likes to hit the fastball. So yeah, I mean, it’s a tough lineup. Obviously tomorrow is going to be a big game, either playing to stay alive or playing to move on.
I remember it was a good atmosphere over there, and it’s going to be the same tomorrow here.
Q. You had a tough series against Texas a couple years ago in the postseason and didn’t start last year. How much have you been looking forward to getting back out there in the postseason start and trying to redeem yourself a little bit?
PHIL HUGHES: Yeah, it’s a great opportunity. Like I said, last year was a disappointing season, and the year before that, pitching a good game against Minnesota and not then pitching at all against Texas. I’ve been looking forward to this, and it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be, like I said, a good atmosphere here and something I really look forward to.
Q. Can you characterize your year, what you were happiest about, what you may not have been happy about?
PHIL HUGHES: Well, I was happy with the way I was able to rebound from some tough starts, and that was something that we really emphasized on, just not letting things snowball and get out of control when they were bad. Obviously some things I was disappointed with. I had a bad start to the season, had some bad starts mixed in. But looking at the positives, I felt like I was able to get the ball every five days and give us a chance to win as much as I could.
Kind of an upanddown season, but you can’t really look at the regular season when it comes to times like this. You just throw that out the window and just try to do the best job you can.
Q. We talked during the season about properly harnessing your adrenaline and controlling it in the early innings. Does that become more of a challenge in the playoffs?
PHIL HUGHES: Well, it can be, definitely. Obviously, it’s something that, you look forward to these big games, but at the same time you are going to have that little adrenaline boost and control that and make sure you get a good couple innings underneath you, and then the nerves will settle a little bit and you can kind of focus on pitching. But it’s going to be a challenge, and hopefully just come out of the gate throwing strikes and then things will settle down from there.
Q. Does starting Game 4 impact your confidence at all versus pitching if you were selected for Game 2 or Game 3?
PHIL HUGHES: It really doesn’t. I mean, you make the argument that these games later in the series mean more. I look at every start, every opportunity that I have as a challenge, and I don’t really focus on where I’m lined up or anything like that, just go out and do the absolute best job I can and not focus too much on the circumstances, just focus on every pitch I can possibly make.
Q. Who in their lineup is your toughest atbat and why?
PHIL HUGHES: Well, you know, with Markakis out, he was one of them. I’ve had a he’s one of the longest hitter guys on the team so I probably have the most experience with him. But other than him Adam Jones is always a tough atbat, Chris Davis having a breakout season. There’s not really one guy you can point to and say he may be the toughest atbat. They have guys up and down that lineup that can hurt you. You get one guy out but there’s still eight guys you’ve got to go after. I just have a good game plan and try to execute every pitch.
Q. A few minutes ago Joe Girardi told some of the writers that win or lose tonight you’ll be starting tomorrow’s game rather than bringing CC back on short rest. How does it feel that he has the confidence in you to put you out there potentially in an elimination game?
PHIL HUGHES: Yeah, like I said, tomorrow we’re either going to go on or we’re going to survive. I don’t really think too much into it. Like I said, I don’t really focus on the circumstances, just if I’m given the opportunity go out and pitch as well as I can, and that’s really it. Whether I was given the opportunity or not, I’ll be prepared for it, and that’s really all I can do.
Q. Results aside, do you feel like this has been a growth year for you? You’ve adjusted your approach, you’ve added a pitch, sort of sharpened the stuff that you had. Does it feel from the start of the season until now that you’ve taken a step up in your growth as a pitcher?
PHIL HUGHES: Yeah, I think so. Maybe a little bit. Obviously last year was disappointing and I would have liked to have built on 2010. But I just look at every year as a different path. Obviously this postseason is going to provide its challenges, but like I said, I don’t really think about what I’ve done this year or in years past, I just kind of focus on what I can do for this team or this opportunity.
Q. You mentioned those appearances in Texas two years ago. Is there anything you can draw from those two starts against Texas, or do you try to just put those starts out of mind?
PHIL HUGHES: Yeah, I try to forget about them. You don’t really want to linger on the negative. But every postseason start and things like that is an experience and something I can learn from. But it’s a different team, different lineup, and I think I kind of know what to expect going into this, and that’s something I can certainly learn from.
But every start, every team kind of provides their own difficulties, their own challenges.
It’ll be nice having a little bit of experience going into this, but as far as drawing anything from their team specifically, it’s kind of its own new experience.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk about facing the same team these 20 times and all this stuff and how much you guys know about the Orioles and vice versa. How is that for you? What’s your perspective on it?
PHIL HUGHES: It’s hard to say. I mean, they see more, we see them more. It’s all back and forth. I think everybody has got their reports, scouting reports and things like that. But you certainly know their guys just from playing in the division all year, especially down the stretch like you mentioned, playing them so often.
But I think as long as you feel confident with the game plan we have going in, there’s really no advantage either way. We just have to it’s going to come down to who executes, and that’s really all it is.
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