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December 8, 2010

Joe Girardi


Q. Have you begun to get actively involved in the recruitment of Cliff Lee?
JOE GIRARDI: Not yet. As we've moved through this process -- yesterday was a very busy day for all of us. As we move through this process, I'll talk to Cash and see what he wants me to do. But this is something that's been on our radar screen for a while. We expect it to start moving along a little bit quicker here and we'll see what happens.

Q. Do you see him as a must or a want?
JOE GIRARDI: I see him as important to us, I do. It's a rotation that right now you look at it, not knowing what Andy's going to do, possibly adding Ivan Nova to the rotation and having Phil Hughes, it's a pretty young rotation with C.C. at the top of it. So I think he's pretty important.

Q. Do you have any plans to reach out to Andy and talk to him?
JOE GIRARDI: I do. I've talked to him a couple times this off-season. I've kind of given him the space on his decision. I think it's important to do that and let him decide what he wants to do with his family. But as we start to get a little further along here, I'll talk to him.
Lot of times he doesn't make his decision until January. But it's something that I'll follow really closely and talk to him.

Q. Do you try to influence him at all or do you just sort of listen?
JOE GIRARDI: I just listen. Obviously, we'd all love to have Andy back, and we know what he means to our organization. But when you start talking about the importance of family, that is a decision that he has to make. I'm not in his shoes. I'm not in his home on a daily basis. I understand what it is to miss your children as you go away. I do understand that. So it's something that he has to decide.

Q. Brian said the other day that Andy told him at the end of the season he was leaning toward retiring. It was the first time he's ever said that. Do you think he's closer now to that direction than maybe he was before?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, I didn't hear him say that after the 2009 season, so I think it's something that he's probably considering a little bit more that it's a possibility that he'll retire. Whatever he decides to do, he's had a tremendous career. He's been a great Yankee. If he decides that this is his last year, we're really going to miss him. But if he doesn't, you know how we all feel about Andy.

Q. What are the skills that Cliff Lee would bring to the rotation?
JOE GIRARDI: He's a guy that wins. He's a guy that gives you innings. He's a guy that knows how to pitch on the big stage. Everything that you'd want, and a guy that you would ask to help you win another championship. This is a guy that has great command, never beats himself, he holds runners. Has a mixture of four pitches that he can use at my time. He's the complete package.

Q. Do you wish Derek's negotiations had gone a bit differently?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, of course you do. You don't ever want anything to become public. But when you're in a negotiation and you're talking about a guy like Derek Jeter, some of it is going to be public, and people are going to have their own opinions just because of who he is. Because of the type of player he's been so long, a great Yankee, someone that's been very important to the success and the championships, it was going to be a topic that was talked about a lot.
I'm glad we can move on. And Derek's all about winning and our team. I think things will be great.

Q. Do you feel comfortable that there's a Plan B if you don't get Lee that you'll have a good rotation for 2011?
JOE GIRARDI: We have explored options. And I do feel that there are some options out there. Obviously, as I've said all along, that Cliff Lee is the complete package. It was a guy that we tried to trade for at the deadline. It's a guy that we followed very closely. But the one thing that the Yankees always do if something doesn't work out, they always have other options and they'll consider other options.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JOE GIRARDI: I think that we've talked to some quality people. But Cliff Lee has been the prize of this winter, and it's someone that we'll continue to pursue.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about catching depth and where Montero may fit?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, Jesus Montero, last year was the first year he caught every day. We believe he's going to be a very good player. He's going to have to come into spring training and earn a job. That is the bottom line. He's going to have to earn the job as a catcher. Is he ready? We'll have a much better idea as we watch him go through spring training. But as I said, we believe that he's a very good talent. We believe that he made strides last year, some big strides. But we're going to have to wait and see.

Q. Even if he proves that he's ready to go, a guy at his stage of development as a catcher, how many games back there could he play? In your mind is there a limit there?
JOE GIRARDI: I don't think there is a limit. If he's ready to go and he's ready to catch defensively in the big leagues, I don't think there is necessarily a limit to what he can play. You'd watch him physically like you would any other catcher, but he was pretty much the everyday catcher in Triple-A. I know he got hurt at the end, and they didn't quite play as many games as we played this year. But I don't necessarily see there being a limit.

Q. The other free agent is Carl Crawford. You've seen him a ton. What can he bring to your situation and how aggressively can you guys pursue him when you already have the outfield?
JOE GIRARDI: He's a difference maker for any club he goes to. He changes the complex of the game. When he's up, when he's on the bases, he's a great player. We've had a chance to see him a lot over the last six or seven years. And he's a pain. That is the type of player he is. You know that any single can be a triple. It's easy for him to score runs.
We have a very good outfield, but it's something that you look at all the pieces that are out there and you make decisions. Does it fit with your team or doesn't it fit maybe your Plan A doesn't go according to plan, and you go to something else.

Q. Brian said that he had met with A.J. Burnett not too long ago. And is that somebody you've reached out to to gauge where he is?
JOE GIRARDI: A.J. and I have talked a lot. And A.J. reached out to Larry Rothschild, and they're going to work on some things before spring training even starts, and for A.J., it was a tough year last year. But I believe he's going to have a good year. He's going to bounce back this year and be the pitcher that we expected.

Q. What kind of things are you going to work on?
JOE GIRARDI: The big thing for A.J. is refining his mechanics and making sure that everything's on time. That doesn't necessarily mean changing him completely, it's just he has the leg kick and the little bit of a swing. It's something that we have to make sure when it's time to get that foot down and where it goes down and where his arm is all in the right spot at the right time.

Q. Are you worried about how he ends up if he doesn't start out very well again and fans are going to get on him again and it mentally might be a tough go for him? Do you worry what direction he's going to go?
JOE GIRARDI: I think you always worry a little bit. Each time you go through something, it's a new thing. He went through a difficult year last year. He continued to take the ball for us, and he fought for us out there. I mean, I can tell you, the effort was there. He competed and it was just a tough year for him. If he gets off to a bad start, does it make it more difficult? Yeah, it does. But I don't think it's something that he can't overcome.

Q. What do you see in his progression?
JOE GIRARDI: I'm not exactly sure what the ceiling is with Robbie. He was a very productive hitter for us last year. He was a tremendous second baseman for us last year. I still think he has room for improvement. I think this is a guy that can win a batting title. I think this is a guy that possibly might hit more home runs, but he doesn't necessarily have to be, to be productive.
He was tremendous in the five hole for us. When Alex was out, he was tremendous in the four hole for us. So I thought he took great strides of handling the middle of the order last year. I think there is room for improvement. I'm not sure what the sky is for this young man, but he's a great player.

Q. Jeter described his season yesterday as poor. Throughout that you remain loyal to him in terms of his position in the batting order. Do you plan to give yourself anymore flexibility this year if you felt you needed to make an adjustment with him?
JOE GIRARDI: The one thing I try to always do with our lineup is wait to see what all our parts are before you make up your lineup and how it fits.
We talked about last year that the best possibility was if we could hit Robbie fifth when we got to spring training, then we'll see where we go, because we mix the switch hitters in and separate the lefties. It's just something that we're going to have to look at. We're going to have to look at our whole lineup because we're not sure who our catcher's going to be. We're not sure if there's going to be additions from position players. You've just got to take a look at it.

Q. You were talking about small sample sizes last year when you talked about Jeter. By the end of the year, it was a pretty big sample. If his numbers don't improve starting next year, does that make you have to consider moving him a spot lower?
JOE GIRARDI: I think you have to evaluate your team on a daily basis, weekly basis, and monthly basis as time goes on. The one thing he did do is he hit in September for us. After we made that change with him, he hit much better. We'll continue to work on those things. We expect Derek to have a good year. To be the guy that he's been.
Even though he had some struggles last year, he still scored 100 runs for us. He found ways to score runs. It's what you want from your guys at the top of the order. But I think the adjustment helped him, and I think it will help him as we move forward.

Q. In an ideal world, how much rest would you give Alex during the year?
JOE GIRARDI: We'd have to talk about that in spring training when we get there. You try not to play him more than seven or eight days in a row. Will your day off be a DH day? Possible or a DH day here or maybe a DH two days later. The one thing that you want him to do -- the one thing that you find is I think there is a fine line of wanting to put those guys out there every day and then it becoming counter-productive. Where if you had just given them a day off, they'd get the freshness back in their body and they get the drive back in their body, and they become a much more productive player.

Q. You look at the year Gardner had last year, do you think that is scratching the surface of where he could go, or is that as good as you're going to see from him?
JOE GIRARDI: No, I think he can get better. Because I think he played hurt a lot with that wrist that was bothering him. The thing about his wrist last year, it would come and go. It would feel better for a while, and it would come back. It would feel better for a while and come back. And he fought through it. I think it affected him some.
I think he can have a better year.

Q. Will Crawford, the power that he has obviously, but not 40 home run power. But do you look at them as similar type players overall?
JOE GIRARDI: I think they are somewhat similar. They're both guys that have tremendous speed, play very good left field. Gardy's a threat and he changes the way defenses play. I do consider them somewhat similar.
The thing about Carl Crawford is he has more experience and he has more power.

Q. His name is brought up as you guys being interested. Do you think the two of them would play outfield or do you think having two guys like that in the outfield is not necessarily the best fit?
JOE GIRARDI: No, I think it's possible that two guys like that could play in the same outfield. But the question is what are all your pieces going in? That is the thing that you have to look at.

Q. When you said you're planning on giving Alex and Derek more rest this year, is that more important to get somebody in the off-season with a little bit more offense to back them up?
JOE GIRARDI: It's something that we've looked at. We feel that we have two candidates in house and that's Pena and Nunez. Pena's average was not what we would have liked, but he was pretty productive in his at-bats when he had RBI chances. I thought Nunez played pretty well over there.
It's something that we have to look at, and as we move further and if you sign this guy, you move on to the next piece which you're going to try to do. But it's whoever plays that role, that's going to be an important role, I believe.

Q. If you're helping to give those guys more days off, do you need to be a little more sure in what you have there than just the prospects of Pena on your hands?
JOE GIRARDI: That is something that we have to evaluate this winter as we continue to move forward, what the possibilities are and the internal choices in who we sign and what we have left financially to sign. Those are things that you have to look at, sure.

Q. Did you talk to Jorge much about the switch and having done the transition out of starting catcher yourself, what advice can you give him about being a back-up catcher?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, I did talk to him about the switch. We did talk about it. Physically he's feeling well after his knee surgery. But we've told him he needs to prepare to catch, too. This is not just where you prepare to be a DH mostly. You need to prepare to catch every day, depending on how our young guys do. It's a transition year that we'll look at.
As far as changing roles, for me changing roles, I was catching less. I wasn't put into the DH role for unapparent reasons, I don't understand. It's something that I think is a different change. I think as we move forward it will probably become easier for him. But Georgie wants to play every day. He wants to catch every day. I understand that. That was something that was hard for me, I wanted to play every day, and from that standpoint I can relate to it.

Q. Is he accepting of it or is it hurting his pride?
JOE GIRARDI: No, he understands. But I still think that he wants to catch. I mean, that is his first love, that is his first passion. To me this gives him a chance to extend his career, stay healthy, and be productive for us.

Q. In your mind how many games do you think he could catch per year?
JOE GIRARDI: Right now, that's something I would have to evaluate in spring training and how he was moving and his knee. I'm not sure how many he caught last year, 100 or so, 110. I didn't think that we caught him too much last year. We were two out of every three days. That is something that we'd look at depending on how Montero or Cervelli did.

Q. How much do you think you guys need to replace that Kerry Wood role? I mean, you've got Robertson, Joba, Luke back there sort of setting up Mo. But assuming Wood doesn't come back, assuming he finds a closing job, do you think you need to bring somebody in or do you have the pieces or do you need to go out and get somebody?
JOE GIRARDI: I think we have the pieces within. I believe that Joba can get back to where he was, and I think Robbie can take the next step. That is something that we'll have to evaluate. If we don't make a move now during the middle of the season like we did last year, I really believe the talent is there to do it. And these guys will probably get the opportunity to do it. But you have to prove you can do it.

Q. Why do you think Joba struggled as much as he did?
JOE GIRARDI: I can't really tell you. When we talked about his struggles, his struggles were not necessarily a lot of outings, it was one outing where he gave up a lot of runs. I think part of it was the inconsistency of his slider.

Q. The fact that he's going in this year not battling for a starting spot, does that help his mindset?

Q. Yeah.
JOE GIRARDI: Well, he did last year. He was in the bullpen pretty much the whole year last year.

Q. Going into spring training.
JOE GIRARDI: It could. I hope it does. It allows him to prepare for what he has to do. We don't look at him as a guy that you would ask right now to give you more than four or five outs in a game and he can prepare a little bit differently. But you still want him to have the arm strength and be stretched out a little bit.

Q. There is still no way you'd make him a starter again?
JOE GIRARDI: Not right now.

Q. The slider, is that a mechanical issue?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, usually. Yeah.

Q. If Nova is not in your rotation, do you see him playing a role in your bullpen?
JOE GIRARDI: He could. He could be a guy that you've kind of broken that way as well. At times he threw the ball very well for us, and I think this young man has a lot of talent. To me, as you project him, you project him as a starter, because he's a three-pitch guy developing a fourth pitch. And I think he can be successful at this level. Consistency is one thing.
I look at the time of year that we broke him in. We broke him in at a pretty tough time of year and a pretty tough race, and he threw the ball pretty well for us. You take away a few innings for him, and he threw the ball really well.

Q. Are there some other young pitchers like Nova that have a chance to have a spot here that you haven't seen him talk about those guys yet?
JOE GIRARDI: We have some kids that are getting closer, that are making strides that we're pretty excited about. We're pretty excited about the depth of our pitching in the minor leagues. I wouldn't say that any of it is quite as far along as Nova. But I think there are some guys that could be knocking on the door next year sometime in the middle of the season.

Q. Not necessarily out of camp?
JOE GIRARDI: Probably not, no.

Q. Does that include Banuelos?
JOE GIRARDI: He's a guy we're really excited about. Betances is another guy that we're excited about. They were excited about the progress that Brackman last year. There are a number of guys that we think our pitching depth is pretty good in the minor leagues.

Q. We know that Brian visited Lee in Arkansas. Have you had any role in terms of calling him or talking to him?
JOE GIRARDI: I have not talked to him during this time.

Q. Usually you're kind of coy with things, but you were pretty animated in the beginning talking about how much he could mean to a club. Are you hoping that a message gets across?
JOE GIRARDI: I'm sure it will be written (laughing). I don't think it will be any secret how a manager would feel if he was on your club. I really don't because of the package that he is.
At times, unfortunately, I've had a chance to witness it a lot firsthand. I mean, he's a great talent. There is no doubt about it. I think everyone would love to have him, and we would too.

Q. You've had success with Phil and Joba of young starters you've moved in the bullpen and helped in that 8th inning role. Have you ever discussed that at all with any of these young pitchers that you have that are pretty close to big league ready right now that could maybe play an immediate role for you?
JOE GIRARDI: No, not immediately. Because most of them haven't had a season or year of Triple-A. Or two or three months of Triple-A. But we have been known to. A lot of clubs believe it's easier to break a guy into the bullpen first and move him into the starting rotation as a young pitcher. If we feel they can help us in the bullpen say middle of the summer, then we'd make that switch.

Q. You entered spring training last year with Hughes as one of five guys trying to win that spot. Now he's going to go into spring training as an 18-game winner. Are the expectations on him different even though he's 24 years old?
JOE GIRARDI: I would say the expectations on him are continuing to get better. I would say I think last year he was competing for a role. We knew what he could do out of the bullpen, and the expectations for him to get better. But I don't think there is a doubt in his mind what he's going to be doing next year. That should help him. It should help him prepare over the off-season, even though we told him to prepare as a starter last year. But we want to see the continued development of his changeup. I thought he used his changeup in the month of September a lot better than he did during the course of the season.
I think he started to realize the importance, and I think it's important that he carries that over to next year so he becomes a four-pitch pitcher. And if you don't have your curveball that day early on and you've got your changeup, I think you can use that. I think that is the next step for him.

Q. How much easier do you think it will be for him and for you not to have to deal with the innings limit situation?
JOE GIRARDI: It will be nice. I've had to do that almost every year that I've managed so far. So it's not something that -- if Nova was to make our rotation, he's not an innings limitation type of guy. So it would be nice.

Q. C.C.'s procedure on his knee was relatively minor. But do you have to be careful about his workload?
JOE GIRARDI: I just talked to him right before I came down. He feels good. His rehab is pretty much almost complete. I mean, we're careful with his workload during the course of the season. We'll watch him in spring training and how that knee's doing. I don't anticipate it being a problem. It was kind of a clean-up more than anything else.
But it is something I'll keep my eye on. You might see him stay out of running drills and stuff like that, but he's a big asset to us, so we've got to keep him healthy.

Q. It's been easy to run him out there for as many innings as you need. Even if it's just 10 or 15 more innings during the course of the year, do you have to think about managing him differently?
JOE GIRARDI: It is something you think about. You look at next year depending on who we sign. If we have a five innings rotation, we won't have an innings limitation problem with any of those guys. So you won't necessarily skip a Phil Hughes a couple of times and move CC up. And that should help.

Q. Joe, it was quite a stir last year when Hideki Matsui as an Angel came back to Yankee Stadium. If he signs with an American League East team, what will he face?
JOE GIRARDI: Probably quite a stir. Hideki Matsui was a great Yankee. He had a pretty good year last year in Anaheim. I just asked about him today where people thought he might end up. But the people in New York really appreciate what he did for us. You go back to game six of the World Series in 2009 and what he did for us. He'll always be a fan favorite there, and people will let him know that.

Q. What were your thoughts on the Red Sox adding Adrian Gonzalez?
JOE GIRARDI: Great player. I think he improves their team. He's a middle of the order hitter. Very good defensive first baseman, very good player. The Red Sox are a club like ours that are always going to do everything they can to get better, and that is exactly what they did.

Q. Is there anything you'll have to do differently with Teixeira considering how banged up he was?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, I'll tell him not to dive in Chicago. Not to get hit in the toe by Bonderman. You know, those aren't necessarily injuries that you would expect to happen every year.
But as he gets older, we'll watch him too and maybe give him a DH day more often than maybe we did this year or a day off every once if a while.
But he's a guy that likes to play every day, he just couldn't get out of that rut with his hand because he dives all the time and he's such a great first baseman. The key probably is not to have an injury like that again.

Q. Do you need another lefty to compliment Bernie?
JOE GIRARDI: We have made it no secret we'd like to add one. But when we go to New York we're going to take the 12 best pitchers no matter who they are.

Q. You see that guy as being a situational, one-batter type guy?
JOE GIRARDI: He could be both. He could be either guy. He could be a situational or he could be a guy that you might bring in for an inning. Maybe he used to be a starter and he's a bullpen guy now. He has the changeup, and the changeup for the right-handers. But in our league a lot of times it's going to be to get left-handers out.

Q. If A.J. starts to -- if he doesn't improve next year under Rothschild, and he's halfway through the season and still struggling, any thoughts of babysitting him down for a couple of starts. Zambrano last year sat for a couple of starts and came back strong, so did Zito for a little bit?
JOE GIRARDI: I think you look at every situation and you make a decision. I'm not expecting to be in the middle of the season and thinking A.J.'s going to struggle. It's kind of a hypothetical question. All my guys know how I think about hypotheticals. Because I'm a positive guy, and I believe he's going to pitch well.
No matter what situation happens next year with anyone at our club, we'll evaluate it and do what we think is best.

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