NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When it comes to the Yankees’ ability to come back from deficits, Joe Girardi sees shades of the only championship team he’s managed.

“2009 we had that special feeling, always coming back. And I think Melky Cabrera had like six walk-off hits — I might be exaggerating a little bit,” Girardi recalled Thursday during his weekly appearance on Mike Francesa’s WFAN show. “This club, I feel with the on-base guys and the power that we’re never out of a game.

“They’ve done a really good job of being patient at the plate and hitting the ball out of the ballpark,” Girardi added. “When I look at what we’ve done, we’ve put together some big innings, which is great. We put a couple together yesterday (Wednesday against the Royals). But we’ve just really swung the bats well.”

The first-place Yankees (24-13) close out a three-game series at Kansas City on Thursday  night.

HICKS PICKS IT UP

Outfielder Aaron Hicks has been arguably the Yankees’ biggest surprise this year. He’s hitting .326 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. Last season, Hicks batted just .217 with eight homers.

So what does Girardi attribute the improvement to?

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“I know he made a few minor adjustments over the winter, but I just think sometimes it takes some players a little bit longer to mature than others,” he said. “They have to figure out what their niche is, and ‘if I’m not playing every day, how do I do it?’ And he’s adapted really well. We’ve given him consistent at-bats this year, more than we were able to last year, and I think that’s really helped.”

CASTRO STAYS HOT

Meanwhile, second baseman Starlin Castro is batting .351 — second best in the American League.

“He’s been sensational,” Girardi said. “We’ve put him in the fourth slot, and he’s done a really good job there, and he’s driven in important runs. Aaron Judge has done a good job behind him. Castro, we saw last year, there’s power there, and there’s the ability to hit really any pitch. It’s when he stays in the strike zone, he’s extremely dangerous.”

BIRD UPDATE

Girardi said first baseman Greg Bird, who has been out since May 2 with a bruised bone in his right ankle, did some running outside Thursday.

“I think our hope is that when we get back from this trip (after this weekend), he’ll start baseball activity,” Girardi said.

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Bird is expected to be sent on a minor league rehab assignment before rejoining the Yankees.

TROUBLESHOOTING TANAKA

Girardi blamed Masahiro Tanaka’s struggles Sunday night against Houston, when the Yankees ace allowed seven runs on eight hits in 1 2/3 innings, on poor mechanics.

“I think he was flying open a little bit, so he wasn’t getting the movement and everything was flat,” the Yankees’ skipper said. “So that’s something we need to iron out before we go to Tampa because they hit him hard the last time, they’re swinging the bats really well, and that’s a club that can hit a lot of home runs as well.”

To listen to the interview, click on the audio player above.

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