LAKELAND, Fla. -- After his outing against the Tigers Saturday, Andy Pettitte was asked about the state of the injury-plagued Yankees, who seemingly are out of favor with some prognosticators and a good portion of their jittery fan base.
"I feel good about here,'' Pettitte said. "I know we're banged up a little bit. But I feel good. I think we're going to . . . ''
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Pettitte paused. He went on to say, "See what happens.'' But it sounded as if he wanted to say something else.
So he was asked: Was he going to say, "I think we're going to surprise some people''?
Pettitte made it clear that was not what he was going to say.
"We're the division champs,'' he said. "You'll never hear me say that. I expect us to win the division. And until somebody knocks us off, we're the champs of that division.''
He wasn't done. You know that steely staredown Pettitte gives batters from the mound with his cap pulled down low? There it was inside the tiny Joker Marchant Stadium visitors' locker room. Without the cap.
"Like I've been saying: We came four games away from going to the World Series last year,'' he said. "That's a pretty good year. So we've got a lot of pieces coming back and hopefully we can do what we want to do, and that's get to the World Series.''
Pettitte's tone was one of defiance -- defiance in the face of the idea that the Yankees are not World Series-caliber because of the significant injuries they've suffered since last season: Alex Rodriguez. Curtis Granderson. Mark Teixeira. Derek Jeter (though Jeter is doing his best to be ready by Opening Day).
Why is Pettitte so confident when all of those key pieces might be missing when the Yankees open against the Red Sox on April 1?
"I just expect to win,'' he said. "It really doesn't matter. You just expect to win. We've had a lot of success around here for a long, long time. We don't expect it to stop.''
Girardi, told about Pettitte's AL East-related comments, said: "I believe our guys really believe that. I do, too. That's what we expect to do. And we know it's a long year, a long journey, and you're going to go through things. But we expect to do it.''
On Wednesday, referring to George Steinbrenner, Cashman said: "I was raised under The Boss. And with The Boss, there's no excuses. So these are obstacles you deal with and you find ways to get over. No one cares about anything else. All they care about is the bottom line and what you put in that win column.
"It's a long season. And we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that when the dust settles, you're sitting around us asking, 'How did you figure your way through this?' rather than 'How did you allow this to bury you?' We're not going to allow this to bury us. We're just not. We can't.''