Joe Girardi was asleep when the Yankees made their first draft pick last night. He woke up to a series of text messages letting him know the newest Yankees prospect was “Little Dante,” the son of one of Girardi’s best friends, and a kid Girardi had known since birth.
“I’m thrilled to death,” Girardi said. “Because I’ve known this little guy for a long time.”
Girardi said he had no input into the decision to draft Dante Bichette Jr., but it’s clear that Bichette was hoping the Yankees would take him. He’s committed to the University of Georgia, but Bichette said he wants to begin his professional career “as soon as possible.” Sounds like signing him won’t be an issue.
“It’s the most prestigious club around,” Bichette said. “There’s nothing better than being a Yankee. You grow up as a little kid dreaming of being a Yankee and hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium, and I was given the opportunity last night to build myself and get up to the biggest level, so hopefully that happens.”
Girardi and Bichette Sr. became friends in 1993, when both were members of the expansion Rockies. Girardi said it was unlikely friendship — Bichette’s a free spirit, and “everyone knows how I am,” Girardi said — but for whatever reason, they got along.
“Little Dante was born that first season,” Girardi said. “He was a wonderful little kid. There were times when we’d play on the road in Chicago, and we’d all stay at our house. Little Dante would sometimes have a hard time going to sleep at night, so we’d get in the car and drive him around. To think this is the kid that we drafted, the kid that I was trying to get to sleep in the car seat. It’s a special family. My wife and his wife are very close. I’ve seen Junior basically working at this his whole life. The setup they have in Florida, Dante has a cage with a workout facility and a basketball court for his sons to get better at baseball and do whatever they want. Dante is really committed to it.”
Said Bichette: “I still call him Uncle Joe. I think I’m going to have to stop that. That’s how close we are right now, but it’s just a great thing that I might be able to play for him some day.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame audio.
• Girardi is starting Derek Jeter at designated hitter today and said he won’t change his approach to Jeter’s playing time because of the chase for 3,000 hits. “You’d love for him to do it here,” Girardi said. “We have 10 games on this home stand, 14 hits he needs, and I would love to be able to do it here, but you can’t physically wear him down or risk hurting him to do that. We’re going to have to be smart about how we do this, and we’re going to play it pretty close to how we’ve played it all year long.”
• Why DH Jeter today? “Getting all our righties in there against Lester tonight,” Girardi said. “I could have played him at short and maybe you DH Alex. I wasn’t going to DH Nunez because he’s fresh all the time. I just felt it’s a way to do it to keep him fresh. We came off a long road trip where he played every day.”
• Eric Chavez is supposed to see the team’s medical staff tonight. No update on him just yet.
• Except for designated hitter, the American League all-star voting leaders haven’t changed in the past week. The Yankees are still leading at every infield position and catcher. Curtis Granderson is still second in the outfield. The only change is that David Ortiz has moved ahead of Michael Young at DH.
• Girardi was asked by Joba Chamberlain and not Dave Robertson moved into the eighth inning after Rafael Soriano went on the disabled list. “I could use both,” Girardi said. “But it was his experience in doing. We had kind of had them, David in he sixth, Joba in the seventh, so I really just moved them back. They’ve both done an outstanding job in Soriano’s absence of bridging that gap to Mariano. Very pleased with what they’ve both done.”
• Girardi on Jon Lester: “He’s got great stuff, and he’s got a lot of different pitches he can go to. He has the two fastballs, the curveball, the changeup. Knows how to expand the zone. He’s just another example of a tough left-hander in our division.”
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
David Ortiz DH
Carl Crawford LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
J.D. Drew RF
Marco Scutaro SS
Associated Press photos