Joe Girardi sat down for his first full blown press conference at the New York Yankee Spring Training facility in Tampa today, one day before all pitchers and catchers are to report for the start of the new season.
"First of all guys, let me just say, that because my time is limited to about 90 minutes for this press conference, I am only going to be taking questions on Brett Gardner and issues related to Gardy. So confine your questions to those areas, please."
AP reporter, Jim Smith, raised his hand and got a nod from Girardi. "Let me make sure I got this right. Only questions about Gardner?"
"Or about issues related to Gardy. That's it."
"But why the limitation to Gardner?" Smith followed up.
"Because in my opinion as the manager, Gardy is the key to our success this year, just as he was last year."
George King of the NY Post spoke up without being recognized. "Joe, you can't be serious, you think Gardner was the key to the World Championship last season?"
"Oh, absolutely. He brought out the best in everybody. He changed the atmosphere around here and made everyone better. We couldn't have won without him."
"But Joe, Gardner was hitting .235 in May after you gave him the starting job in center."
"Now George, you know that's not fair. You can't pick an isolated date and base your judgment on that. He was my starter until he broke his thumb in that great hustle play sliding into second."
King would not give it up. "Joe, come on, everyone has recognized that long before Gardner broke his thumb, he had lost the job to Melky and you kept giving Gardner time whenever you could."
"George, that's not fair and because of that, you will get no more questions during Spring Training. I'll have to consider what happens after we break camp."
Joel Sherman spoke up. "Joe, I have to follow up and ask why you are placing so much emphasis on Gardner? What about Granderson and the word that is out that you called Curtis and asked if he was okay with a possible shift to left if Gardner wins the starting job in center?"
"Well, first of all about Gardner, have you followed this guy. I mean he is a Marine. He is the kind of warrior that George Steinbrenner always wanted. Look at his haircut and the cut of his jaw. I mean this guy is a leather neck."
"And as for Granderson and the quotes that were in the paper today. They are correct as far as they go. But what was not written is that I asked Granderson if he was okay shifting to left, because if he wasn't he was going to get pretty damned sore sitting on the bench all year."
"And he said, Yeah, he had no problem shifting to left field."
Sherman followed with Granderson's situation. "What about the talk about Kevin Long working with Granderson to improve his numbers against left handed pitchers?"
"Yeah, that's right, Kevy has been working with Granderson. I told him to try having Granderson hit cross handed against lefties. So they been working on that. Granderson didn't like it at first."
"Cross handed? What are you talking about?"
"Well as a left-handed hitter Granderson will bat with his left hand on the bottom of the bat against left handed pitchers. Just to see how it works out."
"Joe, that doesn't make any sense."
"No, but it sure makes Gardner look better by comparison."
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated was recognized next. "Joe, I was wandering around the facility watching the workouts and I couldn't help but notice that you've got some strange things going on this year."
"Strange? Strange how Jon?"
"Well, there is that wall down there with the palm trees and the beach scene painted on it. And it looks like a partial roof over the wall. What is that for? I tried to go around behind it but Tony Pena stopped me and told me that was off limits."
"Uh, yeah, uh, Jon, that is something that I have been told we can't really discuss with the press. And if you see Gardner working out down there with one of the groundskeepers, just don't write about it if you want any more interviews with me."
"Did I see Gardner with a catcher's mitt yesterday working out with Andy Pettitte?"
"Yeah, Gardner is such a hard nosed guy that he volunteered to work with Andy in the bull pen. Just sorta warming Andy up."
"But, Joe when I was watching Pena was there and it was in the outfield and it looked like Pena was working on Gardner's footwork in setting up to catch the ball from Pettitte. And then Gardner was throwing over Andy's head to where Rob Thompson was standing."
"Well, I can't comment on that either. Gardy is just willing to do whatever we ask of him and that is all I'm going to say."
Suddenly Girardi stood up. His face was red and beads of sweat had popped out on his nose.
"Look fellas, I don't have as much time for this as I thought. I gotta get out to the fields."
With that Girardi was gone, leaving the reporters shaking their heads and looking at one another.
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