Last year, Alex Rodriguez returned to the Bronx Bombers after his yearlong PED suspension. Two years ago, Derek Jeter announced his retirement plans just before camp opened. And in 2013, Mariano Rivera began his season-long swan song.
“We haven’t had the big story, and that’s nice going into spring training not to necessarily have to deal with that,” Girardi told reporters at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday as pitchers and catchers reported. “So it is a pretty regular spring training. I hope it doesn’t make it a boring spring training.”
Boring? The Yankees? That’s highly unlikely.
The biggest buzz thus far is over the addition of closer Aroldis Chapman and the possibility he could be suspended under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.
Girardi said he’s just waiting it out and will deal with it if a punishment is handed down.
He did say he thinks the new policy is a “good thing” and that he’s just as concerned about how his players behave off the field as he is about how they perform on it.
Last season, the Yankees reached the postseason but were shut out in the AL wild-card game by Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros.
Heading into 2016, Girardi says he believes the Yankees are better on paper than they were at the end of last season, but added, “Paper doesn’t really mean anything till you go out and compete.”
“Our goal is to win the World Series, bottom line,” Girardi said. “I appreciate how hard our guys played all year, how they never gave up last year, but you know what, we didn’t get to where we wanted.”
Meanwhile, veterans Mark Teixeira (35 years old), Carlos Beltran (38) and Rodriguez (40), are another year older. They each had strong seasons in 2015. But can they do it again?
“I think you can expect it,” Girardi said. “I think you have to manage them physically and their workload in a sense to make sure that they’re strong at the end of the season.”
Girardi said versatility on the roster will help give his older vets some rest days. He will count on Hicks to provide some relief in the outfield and Dustin Ackley to spell Teixeira at first base and hopes Starlin Castro can play some backup shortstop and third base.
Of A-Rod, particularly, Girardi said he understands the questions about whether a steep drop-off is imminent.
“He is our DH, and we expect him to be productive,” the manager said. “I think when you get to the age that he’s at, though, every year people are going to ask, ‘Is there going to be a decline?”, ‘If he gets off to a slow start, is this it?’
“But he’ll be ready.”
• Girardi said his biggest concern entering camp is players who are competing too hard for roster spots. “I will let them know tomorrow you’re not going to impress me on your sides. You’re not going to impress me in your first week of games. Give yourself a chance to get physically caught up and where you should be before you start competing.”
• When asked about if he envisions CC Sabathia earning the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, Girardi said, “We’ll take the five best starters,” but added that Sabathia, 35, pitched well after returning from a knee injury last season and “looks great right now.”
• The manager said he will keep a close eye on pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who is coming back after arthroscopic elbow surgery. “We’ll make sure that we put him in a situation where he’s ready to pitch before we put him in a game,” Girardi said. “And if takes a little longer, it takes a little longer.” Tanaka said last week that he’s unsure whether he’ll be ready for opening week.