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Off day notes: “I knew they were going to give me a shot”

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If you think about it, what was Jayson Nix doing with the Yankees in the first place?

Sure, he’s the team’s starting shortstop now, but think about when he signed. This winter, Nix chose a team with a loaded, nothing-up-for-grabs infield. He chose a team with a young utility infielder who spent all of last year in the big leagues and had the backup role locked up from the big league day camp opened. Honestly, do you remember a single thing Nix did in spring training? Was he even on the radar?

“One reason I chose to come to sign here obviously was the Yankees expressed a lot of interest in me,” Nix said on a conference call this afternoon. “A strong interest in me, and came after me pretty hard, so I saw that as a good thing. But also there could be an opportunity. I didn’t know for sure if there was, or if there would be with all of the big names, like you said, and established guys that are here. I didn’t know for sure if there would be, but I knew there was a possibility. And I knew they were going to give me a shot, so I wanted to take it. And I thought it might be a good fit.”

[3]Despite Eduardo Nunez being on the roster, the Yankees have committed to the reliable Nix in the wake of Derek Jeter’s broken ankle. He doesn’t have Nunez’s raw tools, but he’s all the things Nunez hasn’t quite become. Reliable. Fundamental. Steady.

He’s played this role with five different big league teams now, and during the division series he went 2-for-3 in his first career postseason start.

“The way Joe has handled my role and communicated with me has been great,” Nix said. “I mean, it’s really made my job a lot easier, so I know what to expect from him and he knows what to expect from me. And it’s really been very smooth. And then at the same time, you know, (Alex Rodriguez) getting hurt and the opportunities I had to play, it has been fairly consistent for my role, so it’s been really great and it’s been easy. I don’t know if “easy” is the right word, but it has been smooth. The way that Joe handled it and the way that Joe handled my situation with me, and me and Chavy talk about it a lot. He made it easy on me. We know what to expect, what to prepare for and what ways we’re going to be used, and it really helps a lot.”

No one wants to get an opportunity this way, but it’s the reality of the game. A lot of doors open because of injuries, and Nix is stepping in.

“I am very disappointed for Derek,” he said. “I hate the fact that he has gone down, and especially with this opportunity to play in these playoffs. I know it’s hard on him. That part I hate it for him. But at the same time, I’m excited for my opportunity to be able to play. And ever since these playoffs started, I’ve really just been kind of itching to get in these games. And I knew most chances I wasn’t going to start many games, or I didn’t know how much I was going to play, but I really just wanted to be in the games. So to have a chance to start and play in these games is very exciting, and I’m really enjoying it.”

[4]• Joe Girardi spent the off day in Illinois for his father’s funeral. The Girardi family released this statement this afternoon: “We deeply appreciate the overwhelming support that has been shown to us during this difficult time. Our father would have been touched by all the kindness shown to our family as we mourn his passing. As saddened as we are with his loss, we take solace in knowing that he lives on through the principles he passed down to us and in the many wonderful memories we have of him.”

• Girardi said over the weekend that a few players asked about attending the funeral and he told them all to stay home and rest.

On the Michael Kay Show this afternoon, [5]Brian Cashman said it’s still possible Brett Gardner will get an outfield start at some point. “The way our offense is, it is a possibility,” Cashman said. “He deserves consideration considering what is going on right now.”

• The Yankees had no official workout today. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia each threw a simulated game with Francisco Cervelli catching. Nix, Brett Gardner and Chris Stewart were the hitters.

• Yankees bench coach Tony Pena interviewed for the Red Sox managerial opening [6]today. “Tony is a good baseball guy,” Mark Teixeira said. “One of the guys that played in the game for almost 20 years. As soon as he got out of the game as a player, he went into it as a coach. He knows baseball from both sides, being a catcher, he is the ultimate field general. He has a lot of energy. He has thrown so much batting practice here, I think his arm has slowed down a little bit. I don’t know how much BP he will be throwing if he is the manager. But other than that, you couldn’t ask for a better baseball man.”

• On today’s conference call, Teixeira actually managed to find a positive spin to facing Justin Verlander tomorrow. “It doesn’t matter who you’re facing, as a hitter you want to face familiar pitchers,” Teixeira said. “Even if he happens to be the best pitcher on the planet now, and maybe the best pitcher in the last 10, 15 years. We have played Justin a lot. We won a few games, we lost a few games, and the biggest thing is familiarity. We know what he will do to us. He will throw it 100 miles an hour, fix in a good curveball and a good changeup. And it sounds like a tough job, but we have risen to the occasion.”

• Tomorrow’s starter, Phil Hughes, said it felt good that Girardi stuck with him rather than going to CC Sabathia on short rest. “It’s nice to know the manager and the organization is behind you,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I feel like if we can win this Game 3, we’ll have a good chance with CC going (in Game 4), so it’s nice to have that and have that vote of confidence, but I am still going to have to go out and execute.”

Associated Press photos