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Girardi feels playoff letdown, but excited for '15

Manager expects a healthier team in spring, with Tex, Beltran powering lineup

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's final farewell to baseball consumed the Yankees' last weekend of play, delaying all the usual emotions that come with ending a season before October. Speaking to reporters from his usual perch at Yankee Stadium on Monday, manager Joe Girardi -- still recovering from the excitement of the Captain's exit -- delivered a dose of reality while looking toward a new era in Yankees history.

"I think it's not making the playoffs," Girardi said of his team's biggest letdown. "That's why we come to work. That's why the players and the coaches and the front office and everyone involved works so hard and people in the stands -- we all look to play in the month of October. That's our focus and that's what's so disappointing."

Injuries certainly played a part in the Yankees' difficulties in 2014, and Girardi hopes they're less of a factor next year.

"I look around and say we have a lot of good pieces; we do," Girardi said. "Obviously, when you look at your rotation a little bit, there's some guys coming back from injury, but we expect them back and we expect them to be competitive. And you saw some guys come up and throw the ball well. Some guys in our bullpen threw well. … We expect to be a healthier club next year with people being a year removed from surgeries.

"The thing is, keeping guys healthy and productive is our biggest task, and we're going to get younger, just because we're going to lose a couple of older guys."

The Yankees' power-hitting identity changed as players saw time on the disabled list or battled through pain and lingering problems this year. That led to patchwork lineups by the end of the season. On Monday, Girardi chalked up some of the injuries to flukes, like Carlos Beltran's right elbow bone spur.

Girardi also stated that Spring Training would be a time to address issues with the lineup, and the team would work on hitting effectively against a shift. Batting Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order is something the manager said he would consider.

One of the biggest question marks will likely be the return of Alex Rodriguez, whose suspension will expire after the World Series ends. Girardi said he expects him to be the Yankees' third baseman, though he's been removed from the Majors for a year.

"We've got to see where he's at," said Girardi, who has texted Rodriguez 1-2 times a month to check on him. "I think that's the thing that we have to do. He's going to be 40 next summer, and we have to see where he's physically at and if he can play the field, how many days he can play the field and how many days he needs to DH."

Girardi hopes a healthy Masahiro Tanaka will attract some of the media attention away from Rodriguez, but jokingly concluded that "something else will happen in sports that will help with that. That's the nature of sports, too. Something's going to happen."

Girardi assessed the uncertainty surrounding many positions -- including closer David Robertson and his impending free agency -- with optimism. The skipper is extremely excited about starter Michael Pineda -- who posted a 1.89 ERA on the season -- and watching Beltran and Mark Teixeira play healthy.

"I really still believe that there's enough talent in that room … to score runs. I do," Girardi said. "We didn't do it enough this year. I understand that. But I still believe there's enough talent in that room, and time is going to tell."

With Jeter's farewell season complete, Monday marked the beginning of a new chapter in Yankees baseball.

"Maybe you establish a different core," said Girardi. "Maybe it's not called the Core Four, maybe it's called the Core Eight. Because we believe that there's talent in our Minor League system. Are we going to see a lot of it next year? I don't know how much of it we're going to see. But it's getting here, and to me, that's very exciting."

Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for
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