Derek Jeter has started his offseason workouts, but it’s still far too early to have a real sense of how he’s progressing and what his status will be in spring training.
“They basically just started,” manager Joe Girardi said at this morning’s USO event at Yankee Stadium. “(Doing baseball drills) doesn’t start until January.”
So the Yankees won’t know what to exactly to expect from Jeter until January?
“No,” Girardi said.
Add that to the long list of things the Yankees are waiting to learn, right up there with Alex Rodriguez’s availability and Robinson Cano’s free agent plans. Jeter missed almost the entire 2013 season with a series of lower body injuries — all of them related to the broken ankle that forced him out of the 2012 playoffs — but Jeter has re-signed, and Girardi made it clear that he’s fully expecting Jeter to play shortstop next season. Asked specifically if there’s any chance Jeter will play a different position next season, Girardi didn’t leave much wiggle room.
“No,” he said. “That’s our plan is for him to play shortstop.”
Obviously plans can change, but for now the Yankees seem ready and willing to give Jeter at least first crack at the shortstop job.
“We’re hoping that he’ll be back to where he was in 2012 before the injury took place,” Girardi said. “That’s our hope. We’ll go through the offseason, allow him to do the things he needs to do, and then keep our fingers crossed in spring training that it’s all good.”
• CC Sabathia’s strained hamstring is healthy again. “Good, really good,” Girardi said. “His hammy has healed.”
• Girardi said he has not reached out to any free agents to try to sell them on the Yankees, but he said he could get involved on Monday after the free agent market comes into total focus with qualifying offer decisions. “At that point, I’ll get involved,” he said.
• Although the Yankees have routinely cited Dave Robertson as the obvious in-house heir to Mariano Rivera’s ninth inning, Girardi left the door wide open to acquiring a proven closer this winter. “I think we’ll look at whatever makes our club the best,” Girardi said. “I know we haven’t anointed anyone as our closer, we’ve got to see what’s happening. David Robertson has had a number of very good years here. But we’ve got to see what we can put together as a team as a whole before we can do anything.”
• Girardi said specifically that he has not spoken to Robinson Cano about his free agent plans. The Yankees have made it clear that they would like to re-sign Cano, but it seems guaranteed that Cano will at least test the market to see what’s out there. Girardi said he will reach out to Cano at some point. “I don’t think I need to sell him on the Yankees,” Girardi said. ” think he knows what it is. I think he sees the impact these players have had on this community and the organization, whether it’s Mo or Pettitte or Posada, and the legacy that they leave. But you’ve got to see what happens. He’s earned the right to go out and be a free agent and see what the market is, and hopefully he wants to come back.”
• On a somewhat related note, Girardi said he still has no gut feeling on what Hiroki Kuroda will do this winter. The Yankees gave Kuroda a qualifying offer, but it seems likely he’ll turn that down — getting one year, $14.1 million probably won’t be tough for him — and wait to make a decision about whether to return to New York, sign with a new team, return to Japan or simply retire. “I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Girardi said. “I think he’ll go home, sit with his family, and decide what’s next. He’s been great for us, though.”
• And speaking of Japanese pitchers, Girardi said he could not comment on Masahiro Tanaka. A Japanese television station asked whether Girardi had seen Tanaka pitch and Girardi said no. Surely he meant he hasn’t seen him pitch in person. I find it hard to believe Girardi hasn’t seen video — and probably a lot of video — of Tanaka in action.
• Stating the obvious, Girardi acknowledged that Alex Rodriguez’s uncertain situation makes things tricky this offseason, and it will only get more tricky the longer it takes. “I think, whether you have him or not, it’s important that we know,” Girardi said. “If we’re not going to have him, we need to fill that void. It causes us to think a lot about, do we need a third baseman or do we not need a third baseman, so hopefully we’ll know sooner than later.”
• Did the best team win the World Series? “They played the best, I think, all year,” Girardi said. “You look at their record in the American League, they had the best record. So, yeah.”
Associated Press photos