TAMPA, Fla. — Brett Gardner said the game has changed.

Not that it was ever easy, but stealing bases isn’t quite what it used to be.

“Teams are so focused on holding runners and trying to cut down the times to the plate, there’s not a lot of gimmes anymore,” Gardner said. “Five, six, seven, eight years ago, you’d get out there and a guy would be 1.6 [seconds], 1.7 to the plate and you’d pretty much jog to second base. That doesn’t happen anymore.”

Still, the leftfielder said Thursday, he and Jacoby Ellsbury need to do a better job in that department. Gardner, who stole a career-best 49 bases in 2011, stole only 16 last season. Ellsbury, who stole 70 in 2009 and swiped 52 as recently as 2013, stole 20 bases last year.

“I think, especially for Jacoby and myself, it’s important to get back to being a little more aggressive and trying to move over into scoring position for some of these guys to drive us in,” Gardner said. “[I] not only hopefully do a little better job of getting on base, but when I do, run a little more often for sure.”

Early start

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Typically there are seven full-squad workout days before a team’s exhibition opener, but because it’s a World Baseball Classic year, 2017 spring training is condensed. And so the Yankees open Friday after five full-squad workouts.

“Sometimes you worry a little bit about guys being ready,” Joe Girardi said. “Like Ells [Ellsbury] is not going to play because he was a couple of days late. But it’s good. The games are good. You can spread guys out maybe a little bit more, maybe they get a few more at-bats, which is not the worst thing.”

Girardi said other than Ellsbury, “everybody” would be in his lineup against the Phillies, meaning the regulars.

One more day

Alex Rodriguez, originally scheduled to be here Tuesday through Thursday as a guest instructor, said he’ll return Friday. Speaking Tuesday, A-Rod said his primary value would be taking prospects out for a “three-hour” dinner and just talking, something he planned to do Thursday night.

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With David Lennon