2/12/2013 2:47 P.M. ET
Girardi says Yankees could win 95 games
Skipper expresses belief in veteran club as he begins his sixth season in pinstripes
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- Joe Girardi has heard plenty of people talking about how his team did not make a big free-agent splash this year, but the Yankees manager does not necessarily agree with that viewpoint.
To the contrary, Girardi believes the Yankees executed very important moves by making sure Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Ichiro Suzuki stayed in pinstripes. As his team prepares to begin Spring Training, Girardi likes what he sees on the roster.
"This team could win 95 games and get to the World Series," Girardi said. "There's a lot of talent in that room. Sometimes the people that we've signed, we kind of overlook, because they've been around here so much. Those are pretty big signings."
There are several questions as Girardi prepares to send his pitchers and catchers out for their first mandatory workout on Wednesday, and the skipper does not shy away from the reality that he is piloting an older club, one that will require more attention as the year goes on.
Two key pitchers, CC Sabathia and Rivera, are returning from injury, as is starting shortstop Derek Jeter. Avoiding further injuries is an obvious key, but Girardi sees the logic in sticking with the combinations that have worked before.
"I love the people we brought back, because I know they're tested and I know they know how to play in New York," Girardi said. "I've seen them have success in New York, and to me, that's real important."
The lineup has lost a good deal of thump, with players like Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez deleted from last year's squad and Alex Rodriguez expected to miss at least half the season while he rehabs his left hip.
There were some voices last season who suggested the Yankees had become too reliant on waiting for the three-run homer. Even with the additions of Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner, two veterans with track records of hitting for power, that problem may have been phased out for 2013.
"I anticipate it's going to be different, because we don't quite have the home run hitters we've had in the past," Girardi said. "We're going to have to find different ways to score runs."
Girardi said that he believes the Yankees boast more speed than last season, with Brett Gardner and Ichiro pegged for full seasons in New York, and he sees the bullpen, rotation and infield as intact.
The Yankees still need to identify their designated hitter against right-handed pitching, with Eduardo Nunez, Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera among the choices.
Girardi must also settle the catching situation, with Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine entering what figures to be a competition for two slots that could take all spring.
Girardi is prepared for an offensive drop-off from Martin, who slugged 21 homers last year before signing a two-year deal with the Pirates, but he expects that the defensive work behind the plate will be equal.
"A lot of times you can look at a catcher and say, 'Here's a guy who can hit 20 home runs and drove in 60 runs or 80 runs,'" Girardi said. "It's hard to quantify how many runs a catcher can save. I believe we have two catchers that can do a lot of that. The two that we take will save a lot of runs for us."
With so much uncertainty entering camp, Girardi said that he isn't bothered by his own unsettled situation. Girardi is in the final year of his contract with the Yankees, and while he has been a good fit for management and general manager Brian Cashman, nothing is likely to be addressed until after the season.
"My faith is that God is going to put me where he wants me," Girardi said. "That's what I believe. I don't worry about where I'm going to be next year. ... I'm worried about the next 162 games and getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series. That's my concern."