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“You’ve got to look at every avenue you can to improve your club”


Photo: New York Yankees

Joe Girardi was at Yankee Stadium this morning, joining David Cone and broadcaster Michael Kay along with more than 250 volunteers to help the USO create comfort packages for active duty service members.

While taking a 10-minute break from the assembly line, Girardi met with several reporters for a wide-ranging discussion, touching upon many of the topics that will develop over the weeks to come. Here are some of the highlights:

On general manager Brian Cashman saying he is ‘open to anything’:

“I think we’re always trying to figure out ways to improve the club. Sometimes it’s not necessarily through the free agent route, it can be through trade routes. We had some success in the trades that we made last year in acquiring Didi [Gregorius] and acquiring Justin Wilson and how big of a role that they played in our club. I think we’re going to continue to look at that. Obviously I like the guys on our club. I love how hard they played for us, but the goal is to win and win a World Series. I think when you talk about that, you’ve got to look at every avenue you can to improve your club.”

On needing a right-handed bat if they don’t retain Chris Young:

“I think balance is extremely important in a lineup. Obviously we had switch-hitters in the lineup. We lost a big one in Tex down the stretch. That was something that hurt us against left-handed pitching. I think a right-handed bat can help.”

New York Yankees' Brett Gardner, right, is congratulated by Alex Rodriguez after scoring against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. Gardner scored on a sacrifice fly by Rodriguez. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

On Brett Gardner’s lingering injuries:

“You can look at it, he got hit in April I believe it was and that’s when it first started. May, June, July were all great, and he comes out and has that day against Toronto. Obviously everyone is dealing with something and you try to balance. It’s like, all these things that come across my desk on a daily basis, you’re saying, ‘OK, is this guy healthy enough to play? We need him out there.’ Those are things that you have to balance. It wasn’t just Brett. There were a number of guys that we had to deal with during the course of the year. Pitchers that we had to deal with, position players. You just try to balance it the best way you can.”

On talking to CC Sabathia:

“I have. He sounds great. Obviously I’m proud of how he stepped up and went and got help. He was pitching really well at the end of the season for us. Hopefully this continues to help and he has a great season for us next year.”

On the chances of Sabathia not being one of the starters:

“If he’s pitching the way he was at the end of the year, I don’t see that. I see him in our starting rotation. Obviously there’s going to be a number of people that are vying for those five spots. We have [Masahiro] Tanaka coming off that little minor elbow surgery that he’s coming off of that we’re going to have to deal with and see where he’s at. We expect him to be back on time. We were in a situation last year where we had to watch innings for certain guys. If he’s pitching well, he’s going to be in our rotation.”

On surprise over Tanaka’s surgery:

Masahiro Tanaka“He really didn’t have a lot of treatment on it, no. Guys sometimes, adrenaline can get them through a lot of different things. Like I said, guys are used to feeling some things during the course of the season and they play through it. That’s just the way it is. There’s a number of players at the end of the year that you don’t really hear a whole lot about that go have surgery, just to get some things tidied up. It didn’t keep him from making a start, it was never an issue. It really never came across my desk that he was having a lot of problems. It wasn’t what I expected at the end of the year. I didn’t go into the last week of the season saying I knew he needed surgery, because I didn’t.”

On Alex Rodriguez’s World Series TV experience:

“I think he did a good job. It’s not easy. The first time you do it, it’s actually somewhat stressful. And in an arena where he’s usually comfortable, at a ballpark, it’s a whole lot different when those lights go on and you’re expected to say something that’s insightful and not embarrass yourself, so I think he did a good job.”

On the Mets:

“I think they did a tremendous job, and their young players stepped up and pitched extremely well. Their offense got hot at the right time of the season. You don’t necessarily need motivation from outside sources. Our guys are motivated from within the organization, extremely motivated from within, and that’s why we put the uniform in.”

On if New York is a Mets city now:

“That’s always going to be a debate. Every year that’s going to be a debate. The bottom line is, we live in a great baseball city. That’s the bottom line. You have two teams that, there are high expectations moving forward, which I think is great. The play on the field determines which team is playing the latest and which team is talked about the most.”

On Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder at second base:

“We’re going to have to see how the roster shakes out. I thought Ref did a pretty decent job at the and of the year for us. Especially when he didn’t play for 18 or 19 days, which was really pretty amazing. Lets just see how the offseason goes and we’ll go from there.”

Justin WilsonOn the Francisco Cervelli-Justin Wilson trade, one year ago:

“I think one of our strengths of our team was our bullpen and Cervy, if he was here, he would have gotten playing time but then again, Brian McCann would have been our everyday catcher. So, I think it worked out well for both clubs. Justin Wilson was extremely important to us and was a big part of our strength. We felt if we had the lead after six innings we were going to nail it down. And it wasn’t necessarily I couldn’t just shuffle those guys and put them in any order; they all did the job, so, it worked out well for both clubs.”

On Gary Sanchez, and the Yanks’ catching situation:

“I’m watching. My thought is it will be [Brian] McCann and [John Ryan] Murphy, but who knows what’s going to happen in the offseason, what you decide to do. The young man (Sanchez) had a really good year, made a lot of improvements. Played extremely well in the Fall League, off the charts, so I mean it’s something that we’re going to look at. It’s something that if you have an everyday catcher, you have to weigh the idea: do you want him to play once or twice a week or do you want him to continue to develop his traits? That’s something we’ll have to look at.”

On improving for 2016:

“We were one of 10 teams that made the playoffs. You look at our series with the Mets — and I know it’s during the regular season — and Kansas City, we played pretty well against those clubs. Kansas City, obviously, you look at their club, they played extremely well, but there are going to be changes there. So, yeah, I think we have to make a few tweaks and stay out of that one-game playoff so your whole team can take effect.”

On avoiding the one-game Wild Card playoff:

“I think that’s how we thought last year. I don’t think that’s going to change. I never said: let’s just get in. I really wanted to win our division because there are too many things that can go wrong in a one game playoff, that’s the problem. So, it will be to win our division.”

On the bullpen, and any possibility of dealing Andrew Miller:

“You would like to keep everything intact, but I think you have to weigh: does whatever we do make us better? And if we feel it makes us better, I think we have to do it. Yes, that was a strength of our club, those guys pitched extremely well and were dominant and if we had the lead after six innings, we won ballgames. If we feel it would improve our club, I’m sure we’ll try to make a deal.”

Many questions as Joe Girardi and the Yankees flip the calendar to 2016

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi signals to his players in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Atlanta. The Yankees won the game 20-6. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Yankees manager Joe Girardi held his end-of-season press conference this morning at Yankee Stadium. The session ran approximately 35 minutes and covered a variety of issues, recapping the campaign, the early playoff exit and looking ahead to 2016.

There’s lots of questions with this Yankees roster — some which can be answered now, some which will be resolved over the course of the next four months. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy a 2,500-word rundown of the most important topics that were covered today:

How do you evaluate your own performance?

“With the information in front of me being prepared and the discussions that I had with my coaches, I did what I thought was right every day. The bottom line is we didn’t win, so that’s going to be questioned. I understand that. Hindsight can be 20/20; could have done something different? In saying that, we’re not so sure that would have worked any better. That’s the bottom line. I did the best I could, is the bottom line. People thought that I could have done better and I understand that, so you live with it.”

On players wearing down in the second half:

“The one person I think you worry as much about as any on a club that’s an everyday player is always your catcher, especially if he’s an offensive catcher. What kind of numbers is he going to have in the month of September? I’ll evaluate what I did with Brian McCann this year and maybe see could you do a little bit different next year, that sort of thing, to physically keep him strong, because he’s a huge part of our offense.”

Dellin Betances posted

What happened with Dellin Betances?

“I think he became a little human, that’s all. It’s not like he had a 4.00 ERA in those months. He still pitched pretty well. I know he gave up a run the other day in the playoff game, but you look at the hit, you’re giving up a hit to one of the best hitters in the game, in a sense, when it comes to getting base hits. There were a lot of question marks on me on how much I used Dellin during the course of the season and was I using him more. Does anyone know how many pitches he threw this year compared to last year? I would bet not.

“Does anyone know that he was shut down about the last 10 days of September last year? He threw five more pitches in the regular season this year than last year. I was cognizant of his workload. I studied his workload the year he was in Triple-A and had so much success out of the bullpen. When I look at what happened to Dellin, he had a human month. We’ve seen other great relievers have a human month; really, really good relievers have a human month. When I look at our bullpen, I think a lot of questions were answered.”

How much of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner’s second-half issues were injury related?

“Ells felt good. He physically felt pretty good the second half. He did run into the wall and I think it affected his shoulder a little bit, but I would continue to ask him about it. And I know those guys would never make that excuse. Speed guys are going to get beat up as much as anyone. So in saying that, a thing with Brett Gardner, I’ll look at how I used him. Some of the months, he was so good it was unbelievable. And they’re always somewhere in between, usually, their tough months and their good months. But we try to get them rest. I think there was a point where Gardy had three days off in September and I tried to get him a couple of other days off. We try to get these guys rest.”

Were the Yankees right to hold on to their prospects in late July, rather than make a big trade?

“Well, I think when you look at the contributions they made, I think we made the right moves. I know David Price did extremely well in his 10, 12 starts over there. I know Johnny Cueto had some struggles over there. When I look at Severino’s body of work, I think we’re all pretty pleased with what we saw. We’re glad we kept him. I think when we look at Bird’s work, I think we’re pretty pleased and probably glad that we kept him. I look at other players, some of the players who finished in Triple-A – Aaron Judge we think is going to make a big impact, we feel that Gary Sanchez is going to make a big impact after the year that he had and the improvements that he made – so I think the organization made the right decisions not giving up if you want to call them your top prospects, your blue-chip prospects, just for a two-month rental. I think it might have been different in possibly trading those guys if it would have been someone you would have the next five, six, seven years and you knew you were going to be able to keep them.”

Jacoby EllsburyIs there fence-mending needed with Ellsbury after the Wild Card benching?

“There’s a lot of hard decisions that I have to make during the course of the season. At times I sat Gardy for Chris Young. At times I sat Ells for Chris Young. As far as fence mending, that’s to be determined, I guess, as I talk through things with players over the course of the winter. I had to make a decision, and as I told you, it wasn’t an easy decision. I went through all kinds of different scenarios and what these guys had done during the course of the season. It came down to a body of work during the course of the season against left-handers. That’s not an easy decision. Gardy has a pretty substantial contract as well. I have three outfielders that have pretty substantial contracts, and I did what I thought was the best at the time. Did it work out? No. But the question I’m going to get is, if you played Ells would it have been better? Would it have been three runs better? I don’t know that. None of us knows that. If I would have played this guy, would it have been better? That sort of thing. Only time will tell. I thought we had a great conversation that day, and I thought his attitude was great that day. He had the right attitude. No player wants to sit there. Even the guys who knew they didn’t have a chance to start don’t want to sit, they want to be out there, but that’s the way you want it.”

Ever consider benching A-Rod in the Wild Card game and playing Chris Young in right field?

“Alex had been a guy who had been one of our more successful guys against left-handers during the season. No, I did not. I felt like Alex would have to have a big impact for us to win that game.

Expect to have your entire coaching staff back?

“We haven’t even talked about that. I haven’t even been in the office until today. As I said all along, it ends abruptly, it’s very difficult for me. it’s hard for me to watch the other games on TV. I haven’t even thought about that.

If A-Rod and Teixeira are healthy, how can Greg Bird fit on the 25-man roster?

“That’s not an answer I have for you now. I think you have to see how a team is constructed. He played extremely well for us, but I think you have to look at your club.”

With only three free agents (Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Chris Young), how can this team be better in 2016 without a big signing or trade?

“If you look at our club, if guys would have had some of the offensive numbers that they had in the first four months in the last two months, I think we substantially would have had more wins. I think it’s possible we would have won our division. I know that didn’t happen and those are reasons that we have to sort out as an organization, probably more me as a manager. If you look at that, we won 87 games. Our division winner won [93]. We had some guys that really had some tough second halves. If they had the same second half as the first half, I think it’s a much different story.”

Aaron JudgeCould Aaron Judge break camp with you?

“Anything’s possible. Sometimes it happens through an injury. My first opportunity was through an injury. And then I went down for 40 days and then came back. That was my opportunity. The one thing with a young player, though, is you don’t want a young player playing only once a week or twice a week when there’s still development that could take place, that would slow that down. That’s always the question that you have to answer. Is he going to thrive in that situation?”

Any chance Rob Refsnyder sees time in right field? Maybe John Ryan Murphy at the infield corners?

“I don’t really see Refsnyder necessarily going back to the outfield. I think we will continue to try to develop him as a second baseman. We believe that his bat is going to play. Could you toy around with playing Murph at a different position one day here? I think you could. I think he’s athletic enough to do it. I think you have to see the makeup of your roster before you necessarily start doing those things. I’m not opposed to doing that. You’ve seen me out of need sometimes do some things that maybe had some of you scratching your head. I never thought I’d put Carlos Beltran at first base, but when my option was him or Ichiro one night, I had to do it. I’m not opposed to doing anything if it has value and I think it’ll help us.”

CC Sabathia

What’s CC Sabathia’s 2016 outlook?

“I think when you looked at his last seven or eight starts, when you looked at his starts with his knee brace, I thought things got better. I did. I thought his ERA was substantially lower. He pitched much better. I think right now you view him as a starter. You see how he physically bounces back again. But I think right now you’re viewing him as one of our starters.”

Will you have to handle Masahiro Tanaka carefully again in ’16?

“If you look at his numbers, and I know it’s a small sample, there really wasn’t a difference when he went on normal rest and had the extra day. We had some physical concerns going into the season and I think we were trying to be proactive in that situation. But I thought he answered the bell pretty well going on normal rest. So that’s something that at times can really shake up your bullpen and shake up what you do. I think inserting a sixth starter every once in a while is not a bad idea, but it becomes somewhat of an up-and-down shuttle when you don’t do that and sometimes you don’t necessarily want to send someone down who’s in your bullpen.”

Should A-Rod even bring a glove to Spring Training?

“You know, I imagine that he’s probably going to be a DH moving forward. That’s something we’ll probably address in the winter as well, because you look at the makeup of your club and could you expect something, but it’s probably mostly DH.”

Rob RefsnyderWhy did you wait so long to give Refsnyder an opportunity?

“There were still some questions marks that had to be answered about him, about playing the position and that sort of thing, because he was young at it and there were shifts taking place and other things taking place and we wanted to make sure that he was completely aware of. The one thing that I’ve realized about playing the infield is that it’s so much different than it used to be. There are so many little things that you have to know. Every player with the exception of the first baseman has to be able to play on the other side of the diamond. That’s a big difference than what it was three or four years ago.

“By doing that (keeping Refsnyder on the big league roster in early August) we probably would have had to release someone, and we weren’t ready to do that. We looked at what Drew had done since the time that we had sat him down in Oakland for those three days. His numbers were pretty good after that. And he got hot at some times and the ballpark played favorable for him and he was playing extremely good defense, so we decided do stick with that. Drew got hurt again and it really allowed Ref to get another chance, and when he was given that chance he grabbed hold of it and ran with it and that’s why he stayed in there.

“Before Drew got hurt, if you remember, there was a 10-day period that he was as hot as anyone on our team, and we were thinking, ‘OK, if he continues to play like this.’ It was unfortunate he got hurt but it opened up a chance for Ref and he took advantage of it.

Why did Gardner stop stealing bases after mid-June?

“There is no answer. Part of it is he wasn’t on nearly as much the second half and teams pay attention to him obviously a lot. But that’s something that probably needs to be addressed because we need that out of him. And that’s something that you look at. Physically, he never really complained about his legs. But physically, sometimes where a guy doesn’t steal as much, maybe they don’t physically feel as good, they’re not going to tell you, they’re not going to ask out of the lineup. The things like I said I gotta look at. As an organization, you have to look at the optimal number of days that you play a guy in a sense to get the most out of him and for him to be the most productive.”

Masahiro TanakaDo you need to add a big-time ace, or is Tanaka your guy?

“In looking at Tanaka, I think he’s a top of the line rotation pitcher. Is he a 1, is he a 2? I don’t know. But I think Sevvy has a chance to be a top-line rotation [pitcher] and I think to me, the most important thing is that during the course of the season, we have five starters that can compete every day and give you a chance to win. That’s the most important thing. Really, to be safe, you better have six or seven.”

Do you need a right-handed bat? 

“We lost a big right-handed bat is what happened to us I think really against lefties a lot. We expect to have Tex back and healthy. And that adds a big right-handed bat. Depending on who your second baseman is, that could add a substantial bat, too, which changes our club.”

What happened to Chasen Shreve?

I think Shreve has a chance to be better because of the struggles he went through and probably learned a lot about himself. For the first five months this guy was really good and was a huge part of our bullpen. And that’s what I’m going to look at. The sixth month, yeah, we gotta figure out what happened. Mechanically there were probably some things that got a little bit off and we gotta teach him and help him get back to his mechanics when things get off, in a sense, but I think it has a chance to really help him.”

Quick hits from Joe Girardi’s office

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi speaks to the media about Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia, who checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center,  before a workout day Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, for Tuesday's American League Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees’ beat reporters met with Joe Girardi earlier this afternoon in his Yankee Stadium office. Here’s a rundown of what was covered:

Ellsbury on the bench: “It was something that I mulled over for a couple of days. I think when it came down to it in the end, it was Gardy’s numbers against left-handers this year compared to Jacoby’s.” Girardi said he didn’t make the final call until about 3 pm today.

Chris Young’s in the lineup: Girardi said he needed this to happen for a trio of factors – Young’s success vs. Houston, against Dallas Keuchel (6-for-20) and all left-handers (.327/.397/.595 this season).

How did Ellsbury handle it?: “As I told him today, you’re going to be in this game. So I need you ready. He said, ‘I’ll be ready, don’t worry.'”

Brian McCann catching over John Ryan Murphy: “McCann’s numbers off of left-handers, when you look at Murph’s numbers off left-handers, they’re pretty close. When you start talking about damage, this ballpark is suited for Mac. We usually win games by hitting home runs.”

Bullpen blueprint: Like all season, Girardi’s plan 1A is to get the ball from Justin Wilson to Dellin Betances to Andrew Miller. He suggested that he could ask “maybe more” than four innings from that trio. Luis Severino would be a one-inning reliever tonight. Ivan Nova, probably the same thing. The Yankees could get distance from Bryan Mitchell or Adam Warren. Severino would come into this game late – like, after the three relievers at the end and Warren, so probably in extra innings. They’d love to keep him fresh in case they’re heading to Kansas City.

If Tanaka struggles early: “It really depends on how early. You might feel that you might need to go to (Justin) Wilson early to have him get out of an inning and then go another inning. I think all semblance and order of a bullpen is kind of off in a one-game playoff.”

CC Sabathia: Would have been on the roster tonight if he had not checked him into rehab. James Pazos took Sabathia’s place on the roster.

Why is Gary Sanchez on the roster?: In short, just in case the Yankees have to run for McCann early in the game.

“Let’s just say it’s 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth and you’re losing and he’s on second with nobody out or he’s on third with one out,” Girardi said. “I think you’re probably going to – at least I’m going to really think about – I probably need to pinch run here because I have to make sure we score this run. It could be your last opportunity. When you’re only carrying two catchers, you have to think a little bit different. But it gives me more options.”

If the Yankees win, in light of the Sabathia news, would they celebrate with alcohol?: “I’ve talked about it, thought about it. I’m sure they’ve talked about it and thought about it. We’ll just do what we feel is appropriate.”

Yankees announce roster for Wild Card game


68 Betances, Dellin
48 Miller, Andrew
55 Mitchell, Bryan
47 Nova, Ivan
67 Pazos, James
40 Severino, Luis
19 Tanaka, Masahiro
43 Warren, Adam
41 Wilson, Justin

34 McCann, Brian
66 Murphy, John Ryan
73 Sanchez, Gary

29 Ackley, Dustin
31 Bird, Greg
18 Gregorius, Didi
12 Headley, Chase
64 Refsnyder, Rob
13 Rodriguez, Alex
17 Ryan, Brendan

36 Beltran, Carlos
22 Ellsbury, Jacoby
11 Gardner, Brett
72 Heathcott, Slade
70 Noel, Rico
24 Young, Chris

CC Sabathia: “I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center”

This just landed from the Yankees:


“Today I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center to receive the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease.

“I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series. It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player.

 “I want to thank the New York Yankees organization for their encouragement and understanding. Their support gives me great strength and has allowed me to move forward with this decision with a clear mind.

 “As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don’t want to run and hide.  But for now please respect my family’s need for privacy as we work through this challenge together.

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.

 “I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness.”


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