Joe Girardi has high expectations

Updated: February 12, 2013, 3:44 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- The New York Yankees may look different in 2013.

But according to manager Joe Girardi, the expectations for the Yankees haven't changed a bit.

"This team could win 95 games and get to the World Series," Girardi said Tuesday, the day pitchers and catchers reported to training camp. "There's a lot of talent in that room.

"I've heard a lot of discussions about the Yankees didn't make a big free-agent splash this year, [but] I love the people we brought back because I know they're tested and I know they know how to play in New York. I've seen them have success in New York, and to me that's real important."

Aside from Kevin Youkilis, signed to a one-year deal to replace injured Alex Rodriguez at third base, and Travis Hafner, who signed a one-year deal to replace Raul Ibanez as the left-handed designated hitter, the bulk of the Yankees' signings this winter were of players who were with the team last year.

The Yankees went 95-67 last season to win the AL East but performed poorly in the postseason, when they were swept by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

"I believe we're still a very talented club," Girardi said. "I know we didn't get it done in the playoffs, but you can win 105 games and not win in the playoffs. That doesn't mean you weren't a good team. There were teams that made big splashes in the free-agent market last year and were expected to win the World Series and get to the playoffs and didn't even get there. There's no guarantee."

Saddled by an order from owner Hal Steinbrenner to cut the team's payroll to $189 million by 2014, the Yankees entered into no long-term deals other than to sign Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year contract.

New York saw Nick Swisher, the starting right fielder for the past four seasons, depart for Cleveland. Russell Martin, the starting catcher for the past two seasons, signed with Pittsburgh. Rafael Soriano, the closer who saved 42 games last season after Mariano Rivera went down with a knee injury, is now a Washington National. Eric Chavez left for Arizona.

The Yankees re-signed 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, 38-year-old Hiroki Kuroda and 43-year-old Rivera to one-year contracts for this season. New York also is depending on Derek Jeter, who will turn 39 in June and is coming off a broken ankle, to be the every-day shortstop and play at the level he did before his injury last season, when he batted .316.

"If Hiroki Kuroda was a Dodger last year and signed with us, we'd say that's a pretty good signing," Girardi said. "If Andy Pettitte was an Astro and we signed him back, that would've been a pretty big signing. If Mariano Rivera was somewhere else and we signed the greatest closer of all time, that's a pretty big signing.

"Sometimes the people that we signed, we kind of overlook because they've been around here so much. Those are pretty big signings."

Girardi acknowledged, however, that the Yankees' offense will have to make some adjustments to compensate for the losses of Swisher, Martin, Ibanez, Chavez and Andruw Jones -- a group that combined to hit 94 home runs last season.

"I anticipate it's going to be different because we don't quite have the home run hitters we've had in the past," Girardi said. "So we're going to have to find different ways to score runs. I think when you look at our club this year, there's more speed. So I think our offense is going to be different, but I believe that we're going to score runs. It's just going to be in a different fashion than it has been in the past."

Girardi pointed to the return of outfielder Brett Gardner, who missed all but 16 games last season with an elbow injury, to the every-day lineup as a factor that could help the revamped offense.

"He's a guy who has the potential to steal 50 or 60 bases if he stays healthy all year," Girardi said.

Despite admitting to "some trepidation" regarding Jeter's and Rivera's ability to bounce back from their injuries at advanced ages, Girardi said he ultimately expects both to perform as they always have.

"There's concern about him coming back, for me, until I see him go through a week, two weeks, and how he responds," Girardi said of Jeter, who ran on the ankle for the first time Monday. "In my mind, I believe he's going to be an every-day shortstop for us, but you still want to see it."

Girardi also said he feels "pretty good" about Rivera's status.

"I would be more concerned if it was his arm than his knee," Girardi said. "He's had ample time to heal, and I believe he's a great athlete, and I don't believe it should affect his pitching. But if he would have had a shoulder surgery, or if he would have had an elbow surgery, I would have been concerned. But I feel pretty good about Mo, and my guess is everyone in that room does."

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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