At long last, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has announced his decision. His ruling came on Saturday, a full-season suspension for Alex Rodriguez, and that should have brought some much-needed clarity for the Yankees. But their manager isn’t so sure.
“It’s been a long process,” Joe Girardi said. “But I’m not so sure the process is over.”
Speaking after an event at the Harvey School in Katonah, Girardi said he remains concerned about Rodriguez — “I worry about my players because, more than anything, we’re people before we ever played,” he said — and he’s not considering Saturday’s announcement as the final act in this saga. Girardi knows Rodriguez is trying to have the suspension blocked by a federal judge, and Girardi seems to be keeping himself mentally prepared for any new twist in a story that’s already full of them.
He’s also preparing himself to enter the season without an everyday third baseman.
“I think we’ll handle it from within, the players we have, if (Rodriguez) is not a player for us,” Girardi said. “We have Kelly Johnson, and then we’ll probably try to platoon him with a right-handed bat. Obviously Nuney’s got a shot at it, and we signed (Scott) Sizemore, and there’s other players we will look at. We’re just going to have to deal with it.”
Girardi’s comments echoed a growing sense that the Yankees are not planning to make a major move to acquire a new third baseman, but will instead try to mix and match, searching through a series of less-established options to find a platoon partner for Johnson. And Girardi said Eduardo Nunez might very well be that platoon partner. Girard said the Yankees were encouraged by the way Nunez performed — both offensively and defensively — while playing a lot of third base late last season. Nunez hit .295/.321/.487 in the month of September.
“I think we have to give him a good look,” Girardi said. “He played really well. I do, I think we have to give him a look. … (Whether he can handle the position defensively) is something we’re going to have to determine.”
A few other notes from Girardi last night
Brian Roberts might be close to an everyday guy
Girardi acknowledged that he’s not entirely sure Roberts can play every single day, but he certainly seems to leaning toward making Roberts his regular second baseman, not a part of some second base platoon.
“I think he can help us a lot,” Girardi said. “I think it’s something, I’ll sit down and have a conversation and try to get a feel what he thinks the optimal level of games that he’s going to play, but we’d like to play him pretty often.”
Derek Jeter is still the shortstop
Still no indication that Jeter will be playing any position other than shortstop next season, and the plan is still for Jeter to play the position fairly regularly. Girardi acknowledged that he’ll have to give Jeter some DH days and might have to rest him more than usual, but that doesn’t mean Jeter won’t be the regular guy at shortstop.
“There’s nothing that tells me he won’t be,” Girardi said. “But until you get out there and play, I don’t think any of us really knows 100 percent.”
Positive reports on all the injured guys
Girardi said Jeter is doing his “normal January workouts,” and that Mark Teixeira has started swinging, and that CC Sabathia has reported no physical setbacks this offseason. In fact, Girardi told the crowd at Harvey: “I think we we’ll see a really good CC this year.”
Pitching, pitching, pitching
The Yankees might not be in the market for an everyday third baseman, but they’re certainly in the market for some pitching. “We still have some work to do,” Girardi said. “And there’s a lot of decisions to be made because you think about our bullpen, there’s a lot of open spots. Right now there’s two open spots in the rotation. There’s a lot of decisions to be made. … My focus is really going to be probably in spring training, pitching and third base.”
For whatever it’s worth, Girardi said he fully believes Masahiro Tanaka would thrive in New York.
Odds and ends
Girardi said once again that Dave Robertson will have the best chance at winning the closer job, but Girardi wouldn’t name Robertson the closer already. … How many games Jeter plays in the field will be determined by the way Jeter feels: “He’ll make that decision for me,” Girardi said. … On Michael Pineda: “We are hoping that he is in our rotation.” … During the Harvey School event, Girardi was asked by someone in the crowd what he’s most looking forward to in 2014. Girardi’s response: “Winning.”
Associated Press photo