TAMPA, Fla. -- To Brett Gardner, it still seems like yesterday that he was viewed as one of the Yankees' rising prospects, attending Spring Training with a football number on his back while wedging his belongings into a locker between Alexander Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.As he prepares for a 10th
TAMPA, Fla. -- To Brett Gardner, it still seems like yesterday that he was viewed as one of the Yankees' rising prospects, attending Spring Training with a football number on his back while wedging his belongings into a locker between Alexander Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
As he prepares for a 10th season in pinstripes, Gardner has upgraded his real estate in the home clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field, taking over a corner locker previously used by Carlos Beltran -- an honor befitting the Yankees' longest-tenured player.
"It's crazy. It feels like just yesterday I was down there between A-Rod and Robbie Cano, wearing No. 91, and praying not to get sent back across the street to Minor League camp," Gardner said. "I guess it's pretty cool. It's something that I definitely cherish and don't take lightly."
Gardner was aware that his name had been floated in several trade rumors this winter, as general manager Brian Cashman openly dangled the 33-year-old outfielder as he sought to upgrade the team's starting pitching. None of those discussions led to deals that would have made sense on the Yankees' part, and so Gardner will continue with the only organization he has known.
"I'm not constantly checking on my phone. I don't have Twitter or a Google Alert on myself or anything like that," Gardner said. "I try to unplug myself as much as possible from all that in the offseason, but I definitely hear from my wife, mom, friends, the stuff was all being mentioned. I was aware of it all, but I'm happy to be back here, obviously."
Gardner hit .261/.351/.362 with 22 doubles, six triples, seven homers and 41 RBIs in 148 games last year, winning his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award. While he considers it as a compliment that other organizations showed interest, Gardner said there is no curiosity on his part to see what the game looks like on the other side of the fence.
"I don't want to play anywhere else," Gardner said. "I want to be here, I'm excited to be here and I feel like we've got an exciting group of young guys here that are ready to come up and help us out or are right on the verge. I'm excited to be part of that."
Gardner was asked what advice he would offer to the new crop of talent rising through the Yankees pipeline.
"Just don't ever be complacent," Gardner said. "As a young guy coming up, I had so many veterans to look to, so many future Hall of Famers. Even guys like Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, just taking me under their wing, I'll be forever grateful to those guys for treating me the way that they did.
"As an older guy now, you try to remember that and remember how to treat the younger guys, the kind of things that they need and advice that they need and direction they need to not just further their careers, but help the Yankees win at the big league level."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.