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Q & A with Joe Girardi

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Dec 04, 2007 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Joe Girardi had a sitdown with two dozen or so reporters at the Winter Meetings. Here is the transcipt that was supplied by Major League Baseball. It’s a lot of words, but have at it:

Q: What does it mean to you to have Andy Pettitte back, personally, before team-wise?

JOE GIRARDI: Obviously there’s some details that have to be worked out. Personally it means a lot because I know what Andy is all about. I had a chance to play with Andy and it was a wonderful experience, and what Andy brings to the table on the field, off the field in the clubhouse, just the type of man he is. He’s important to our club.

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Q. As far as the club is concerned, do you get caught up, ever, in what the team is going to do transaction-wise? Do you leave that alone or do you think about that kind of stuff when you’re alone trying to figure out what you’re going to do?

JOE GIRARDI: Obviously we have discussions as an organization about players. But on an every day basis, no. You worry more about the players that are in the room, in the clubhouse that you have under your control, because that’s really all that you could control at that time and how you use those players. So I don’t get too caught up on what might be.

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Q. You have your team set for the most part, maybe there’s a big piece coming, maybe not, but does it help you prepare in the winter when you pretty much know what you have and there’s no question marks?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think it’s obviously easier when you have a club that you’re more familiar with than not familiar with. I went through that experience where we had a lot of young players in Florida, and you had to learn what they could do and what they can’t do in a lot of situations in six weeks in Spring Training, four weeks of games, and that’s kind of tough. So obviously when you’re familiar with your players and you have an idea of what your lineup is going to be and what your rotation is going to be, it is a little bit easier. There are in guarantees in this game, you have to perform.

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Q. In the conversations that you had with Andy, did you feel like you had to convince him?

JOE GIRARDI: No, not really. You know, I talked to him shortly after the season and I talked to him a couple days ago and I told him, you know, I would be calling back around December 1. Because I know personally as a player that, you know, when the season is over, you don’t really want to make up your mind right away. You know, you’re mentally fatigued, you’re physically fatigued, you want to get home and spend some time with your family and think about your situation. That’s why I told him I would call him in a couple of weeks. You know, Andy is a true professional, and I just can’t tell you how happy I am to have him back.

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Q. Did he give you any idea what made up his mind for him?

JOE GIRARDI: Not necessarily. He just said, “I’m ready to come back and I want to come back.” I think what brought Andy back is he loves what he does, and the competitive juice us probably start flowing again. He had a chance to recharge his batteries a little bit and he’s ready to go.

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Q. What’s your opinion of Phil Hughes?

JOE GIRARDI: My opinion of Phil Hughes? I think it’s unfair to have a strong opinion one way or another about a young man that, you know, has had some starts in the big leagues, but not a ton of starts. But obviously there’s a lot of talent there. He’s a work-in-progress, like all players. Obviously the big thing is to keep him healthy and get him out there, you know, every fifth day.

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Q. What’s it like for you right now not knowing what parts might be leaving the team, what parts might be coming in?

JOE GIRARDI: I don’t really worry about that. You know, you look at what you’ve got now, and you know, you go up into the room that we’re in and see a board and you know who you have and you know who you don’t have and you focus on what you have.

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Q. What about in Florida, you dealt with a very inexperienced young pitching staff; can you talk specifically about what the differences will be going to New York? And you know the pitchers and have played with them and have a lot more experience, just talking about the pitching; is that easier?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, we’re going to have some guys on the staff that are somewhat inexperienced as well. This is not going to be a five-man rotation that consists of, you know, guys that have, you know, five, six, seven, eight years of development. We’re going to have many young kids starting some games. Obviously you know what you have in Chien-Ming Wang, and you know what you have in Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina on a daily basis. But there are would more spots that have to be filled there and some young guys that need to fill in the bullpen. I think the experience with the young guys and protecting the young guys was probably valuable for me.

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Q. Going in, you mentioned the three veterans you have, do you look at Mussina as one of your starters, or is there a chance he could end up on the outside looking in, since you have six guys right now?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, you have six guys. I think everyone if you were to say that you were going to design your rotation today, Mike Mussina would definitely be in the mix. You would think that he would be one of those starters, and obviously as I said before, you have to perform. You know, a lot of people had some question marks on Mike Mussina he had some pretty good months last year. He had a bad month. And it seems when you get older and you have a bad month, people automatically think that you are done. If you’re young and you have a bad month, you need more seasoning. And if you’re in the middle of the career, you just say you’re having a bad month. I don’t think Mike Mussina has forgotten how to pitch, and I still think that he can be successful.

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Q. Mussina aside, if you had two or three, you know pretty inexperienced pitchers in your rotation, how does that — how do you stack up against Boston and the rest of the American League if you have to go in with that much inexperience?

JOE GIRARDI: Time will tell. I mean, these kids are talented. There’s no doubt that they are not talented young pitchers. But they are being asked to perform at a high level, like all of the other players in that room were asked to perform at a high level at some time; whether it was Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte or Alex Rodriguez or Robinson Cano, and they are going to get a chance to take that next step.

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Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Alex?

JOE GIRARDI: Yes.

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Q. How has that gone?

JOE GIRARDI: It went great. Obviously he’s very happy and there are some details that still have to be worked out there as well but he’s excited.

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Q. Knowing that you are going to have Andy Pettitte back, how does that change your need for another impact veteran guy, veteran pitcher in your rotation?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think it gives you a guy that you can pencil in for 32 starts, and you know that he can handle the workload. He’s used to the workload from a physical standpoint, as well as a mental standpoint, and that’s good to know. When you have a lot of young pitchers, you have to be a lot more careful about their workload and how many starts and how many innings they throw.

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Q. Obviously there’s one guy out there, we all know you’re going after him, I know you don’t want to get into the specifics of that, because you have Andy, does that lessen your need to go get a big guy?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, obviously, Andy is important to the rotation, and I think everyone saw how important he was last year, what he did against Cleveland in a big game last year, so we needed Andy. We needed Andy’s presence.

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Q. At your initial press conference, you said you understand that playing at a championship level is what is expected. Do you think as the rotation is comprised right now that you can get there?

JOE GIRARDI: Yes, I do. It is our job to get there as a club, as an organization. And yeah, the pitchers are young. Phil Hughes got valuable experience last year. Joba Chamberlain got valuable experience. Ian Kennedy, even though his experience was a little bit shorter, was very valuable. They learned how to compete at this level. Now you have to be able to do it over a six-month period, you know, the 162 games, and then you see where you’re at.

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Q. Do you think that’s problematic because you’re not doing it with one guy, and maybe not even two guys, but that you might be asking three guys to all take that leap for six months, maybe a seventh month, championship level, that it might just be too much?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, you can compare a little bit to 1996. Obviously the pieces were spread out a little bit, but you had a rookie shortstop, you basically had a rookie pitcher in Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera and think about the roles they played that year for the New York Yankees in winning the championship. I’d like to parallel it to that. Yeah, two of them might be starters, one might be in the bullpen or three of them might be starters or one of them might be a starter. I mean, they are expected to step up, and I think they are ready to make that step.

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Q. In building the bridge to Mariano, which always seems to be so important each and every year, and last year you took Chamberlain and made him a reliever. Is there a possibility not of the three guys that we talked about, but maybe a Jeff Marquez or somebody like that in the system could be used as a starter, and maybe finding a guy like that in the system, is there a possibility of that happening?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, obviously I think we are going to look at guys in the system. I think that is a possibility. You know, there’s going to be some young players, young pitchers, especially, to get a chance to perform, whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen. And you’re going to look at guys like Jeffrey Marquez and Ross Ohlendorf, and there’s more guys coming. And we are expecting them as an organization to step up.

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Q. How do you handle, with all of the outfield ares that you have now and first base and DH, how do you see that shaking out? Well, I don’t think you can say exactly how it’s going to shake out because people have to perform. People also have to be healthy.

JOE GIRARDI: I was on clubs here in the late 90s; there were more people than positions to fill, and we made it work and we won championships. And we will try to do the same now. I mean, you never know — I don’t think you can ever have too many people.

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Q. You’re clearly very familiar with the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. What’s it like to watch now as there’s other off-season competition going on?

JOE GIRARDI: You know what I think it’s what makes baseball great. Sometimes it’s nice to pull back and just be a fan and say, you know what, this is what makes our game so great. It never really stops. It never takes a break. If you’re thinking about off-seasons of other sports, you don’t hear as much. And, you know, it’s interesting. I’m sure there’s other clubs involved that maybe none of us have heard about yet, but I think it’s great.

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Q. How do you think that rivalry has changed since you were playing?

JOE GIRARDI: I think it’s intensified a little bit more because they have met in the playoffs a few more times, and I think that’s brought a higher intensity level to it.

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Q. As a Yankee manager, do you worry that they might dramatically improve their team?

JOE GIRARDI: I worry about our club. I can’t worry about what other clubs are doing or I won’t sleep at all because there’s 29 other clubs you’ve got to worry about. No. I mean, you’ve got to worry about who is in your clubhouse and how you’re going to get the best out of those guys as an organization and that’s what I worry about.

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Q. Whether you worry or not how much better does it make Boston if they add another All-Star caliber pitcher to their rotation already?

JOE GIRARDI: You never know. You never know how things are going to play out. So, you know, we’ll find out in, what, about eight months.

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Q. Do you feel like you have a tough act to follow with Joe Torre’s 12 championship years in a row?

JOE GIRARDI: No, I don’t. You know, I have to be myself and that’s all I can be is myself.
Obviously there has been lofty expectations on this club long before Joe Torre was here. He had to come in to fill someone’s shoes, and Buck Showalter before that and it just goes on and on. The expectations have always been here, and that’s one of the things that makes this job so great.

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Q. Do you feel you’re a different manager now with the Yankees than you were with the Marlins?

JOE GIRARDI: I think I’ve grown a lot as a person. I think you learn a lot through your experiences in life, whether it’s on the field or off the field or no matter what you’re doing. So I’m definitely a different person.

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Q. When you were hired, you didn’t have a third baseman, a closer, a catcher and one of your starting pitchers —

JOE GIRARDI: (Laughter) A lot’s happened in a month.

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Q. Do you think you with go four or four with those guys and get everybody back or are you surprised at how it worked out?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I’m a little bit surprised because the club had talked about, you know, if Alex opted out, they probably wouldn’t bring him back. But I’m not surprised the club stepped up. I think that’s what the Yankees have always done, they have always stepped up and tried to give the organization, the fans, the players in the room, the coaches, the managers, the best players they can give them.

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Q. To what degree were you maybe behind the scenes calling those guys when they were still free agents and encouraging them to stay?

JOE GIRARDI: I talked to the guys obviously, because I know how important they are. And I know how important Jorge Posada has been to the Yankees for the last 12 years, and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, and Alex, the year that he had. Obviously you know, you make a wish list and you put all the guys on it, not knowing that you’re going to get them all, but it’s nice when it happens.

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Q. Pitching staff the way you have it currently constituted, do you think it’s the kind of staff that can win a championship?

JOE GIRARDI: Those are my expectations. Obviously it’s, you know, when you put up a board, you don’t have it down to an exact science who the 12 names are going to be. There’s going to be some competition in Spring Training which I think is a great thing because I think competition brings out the best in people.

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Q. Seems like everything is focused on that one huge rumor out there. Is there something else that you’re confident or how would you characterize something else getting done with your organization.

JOE GIRARDI: I think the way the club is constructed today, there’s a good chance it’s not going to be construct that had way February 14th when we report. I’m confident they will do everything in their power to put the best team in that clubhouse.

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Q. I missed out on your answer earlier; did you have to convince Andy to come back, was that a difficult sell?

JOE GIRARDI: No, playing for the Yankees is not a difficult sell. It’s a wonderful place to play, and I can tell you that through my experiences. I think Andy just needed to step back and take some time to evaluate and recharge, and you know, he wants to try it again.

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Q. Your relationship with Kyle Farnsworth, how important is that in trying to, you know, get the most out of him this last year considering the problems he’s had the first two years?

JOE GIRARDI: I think it’s important, and obviously it’s my hope that it works out for the best. I mean, I had a chance to catch Kyle when he was in Chicago when he was dominant. I’ve always had a lot of confidence in what he can do. And I’ve seen Kyle at his best, so I look forward to him getting back to that.

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Q. What can you do, taking advantage of that relationship, what can you do to get him back there?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think you know — I know Kyle’s personality. I kind of know what makes Kyle tick from a standpoint because obviously we are 61 feet apart a lot of days.
I’ll use the things that I know about Kyle to instill confidence and motivate him.

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Q. You mentioned that the team will be different come February 14th. Where do you think you need the most improvement in that?

JOE GIRARDI: I didn’t say it would be different. I said there’s a chance it would be different.
I think obviously the Yankees are the type of club, like any other club, whenever you can make an upgrade, if it fits, you’ll try to make that upgrade. And it’s possible nothing may be done over the next three months. But it’s also very possible that something could be done.
So that’s why I don’t focus too much on, you know, what might be. We’ll find out February 14th.

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Q. How has the communication been with Brian —
JOE GIRARDI: Great.

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Q. — in the last 24 hours about these trade rumors?

JOE GIRARDI: It’s been great since day one. I’m on the phone a couple times a day with him. It’s been very good.

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Q. There was so much made last year about Joba and the limitations with three rookie starters in the infancy of their careers, have you guys talked about limits in terms of innings?

JOE GIRARDI: We’ve talked about the amount of innings, I’m not doing to share what they are but we’ve talked about the amount of innings that these guys — that we feel they can pitch, and it’s in their natural progression of growing as a pitcher. That’s something we’ll have to address during the season.

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Q. With that said, is it almost like having six pitch pitchers, is that a way —

JOE GIRARDI: It’s a great thing. Yes, it’s a great thing.

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Q. Do you know something about Duncan’s problem with his arm?

JOE GIRARDI: Yes, obviously he’s had some circulatory issues, and he is doing better. And you know, he’ll be evaluated every couple weeks, every month, and we’ll see where he’s at February 15th.

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Q. What’s your impression of the business side of baseball being here at the Winter Meetings and the long hours of talking about Santana and being involved in that?

JOE GIRARDI: Well, I’m glad I’m not — I’m glad I don’t have a pad and a piece of paper. Long days for everyone here. But to me it’s what makes baseball special. I like it. I mean, I can never it get enough baseball. I don’t know, maybe some people can, but I can never it get enough of it, so I like it.

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Q. Is there a philosophical difference, within the club, can you see the debate of picking up Santana at the expense of rebuilding the foundation?

JOE GIRARDI: I’m not really going to get into that. Obviously there’s been a lot written about, you know, possibly Santana being traded to certain clubs, but I’m not really going to get into that. Obviously we feel very strong about our young players here, and the organization, Brian, have worked hard the last couple years trying to rebuild the system. We’re starting to see some of the fruits of that system. Let’s just hope that it’s a continual flow.

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Q. Are you guys still involved in the Santana talks?

JOE GIRARDI: You know, that’s something that Brian has done most of the talking about, and obviously that’s not something for me to share.

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Q. I don’t want to put words in your mouth but what you said a minute ago, are you intimating you could go with a six-man rotation at times during the year, use off-days to give guys extra rest?

JOE GIRARDI: I’m not insinuating we’ll do a six-man rotation, but what I am saying is we’ll watch innings very careful. If people start getting to certain levels, adjustments will have to be made.

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Q. Is it tough when you’re in a position where you’re looking at contending for a championship where you have to think to yourself, I can only use this pitcher five innings tonight or six innings tonight and not just let the game go as it is?

JOE GIRARDI: Every team has issues that they have to worry about. That’s just the nature of the business. If you didn’t have issues, it wouldn’t be a competition, so that’s what makes our job interesting and fun.

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Q. There are certain players who you already knew very well having played with or coached. Have you gotten a chance to visit with some of the other players or talk to them?

JOE GIRARDI: Yes, I have. I’ve talked to the other players. I will continue making calls and trying to see as many of them as I can before Spring Training.

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Q. You said earlier that you were glad you had the experience of working with young pitchers with the Marlins. What can you take from that to help the young Yankees young pitchers, what he is the biggest thing you learned working with young pitchers?

JOE GIRARDI: You have to be patient, making sure that they have a plan of how to be successful is very important, instilling confidence in them and physically protecting them.

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Q. You’ve watched Santana pitch for many years, where would you put him, top three pitchers, top five pitchers?

JOE GIRARDI: I don’t know if you can characterize exactly where he would be. But obviously he’s one of the premiere pitchers in the game.

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Q. How much do you value defense at first base and left field, and how would that play into your mixing and matching?

JOE GIRARDI: I always value defense. I think defense is very important. Because you can save a lot of runs, as well as drive in a lot of runs. So we will look at those things as Spring Training goes on — excuse me, as the season goes on, but it’s very important to me.

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Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Giambi at all?

JOE GIRARDI: We have kind of played phone tag.

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Q. Do you feel any emotions about being manager in the last year at Yankee Stadium?

JOE GIRARDI: Yes. Special, very, very special. I’ve been fortunate to be a lot of places in my career and obviously this is one of them. I’ve had a chance to play for the Yankees, win championships. But it will be a special moment.

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Q. What’s been the best part about being the manager of the Yankees so far?

JOE GIRARDI: The best part of being a Yankee manager? I just think the anticipation of walking through that clubhouse door down the tunnel on to the field. I remember what it was like as a player, and I think it’s going to be equally as magnificent as a manager.

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Q. No courtside seats, good tables?

JOE GIRARDI: You know what, I got Hannah Montana tickets for my daughter, which made big points, big points.

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