Despite injuries, Yankees say they're ready to find a way to win

Joe Girardi looks on as his team warms Joe Girardi looks on as his team warms up for Game 3 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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The critics, and there has been no shortage of them, had their say regarding the Yankees all offseason.

When Joe Girardi speaks to the team in advance of Monday's season opener against Boston at the Stadium, he'll have his.

"I expect their best, that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "I expect your best and we expect to win every day and we prepare to win every day."

In his spring training kickoff news conference, Girardi said he thought his team was capable of winning the American League East, which looks like baseball's most balanced division, and getting to the World Series.

He still feels the same, even after spring training claimed Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes among its injury victims. The quartet will start the season on the disabled list, as will Alex Rodriguez, who is rehabbing from hip surgery. That's why players such as Brennan Boesch, Ben Francisco and Lyle Overbay, who weren't on the squad a month ago, are active and will be relied upon.

"I feel good about the work our guys have put in and about our team," Girardi said. "I like our guys. We're going to find out Monday and as time goes on, but I like them."

The Yankees will take the field with all the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day -- also noteworthy as the final opener for the retiring Mariano Rivera and for the absence of Jeter, who remains in Tampa rehabbing his left ankle -- but also with the lowest expectations for the franchise in nearly 20 years.

General manager Brian Cashman, who has made "survive and thrive" an unofficial motto in recent weeks, says he gets why there has been so much negativity.

"I understand why," he said. "Right now, with what we're going through, it's easy to say, hey, they're down and out. I understand that. Our job is not to find an easy road. Our job is to say we might have some guys that are down, but don't count us out. Our job is to make sure we find a way."

The Yankees' lineup already was going to lack power this season because more than 100 home runs departed during the offseason, led by Nick Swisher's 24 and Russell Martin's 21. Robinson Cano, coming off his sizzling MVP performance in the World Baseball Classic, has never been more important.

"It's hard to replace Tex, A-Rod, Jeter, but we have guys like Youkilis, Hafner, guys who have been in a lot of games," Cano said. "We have guys you hope will have a great season for us and help us win games until we get the rest of the guys back."

Ace lefthander CC Sabathia, who takes the mound Monday against Boston's Jon Lester, said the injuries don't put much more pressure on the pitching staff.

"I feel like we needed to keep the runs down and pitch well anyway, so [there] is no added pressure," Sabathia said. "I think we as a staff put a lot of pressure on ourselves to pitch well because we know the team's only going to go as far as the pitching takes it."

Rivera echoed many of his teammates in addressing the injuries.

"It's part of the game," he said. "No one likes to get hurt, but it happens. What we need to do is play the game that we know how to play. Do the little things. Pitch, and we win games like that. Someone will step up. Someone will do what needs to get done to win games."

Cashman said that even with the missing players, "we have a lot of talent." As he knows, though, saying that and having that talent produce can be two different things.

"The schedule's not going to wait for us, so we're not going to cry," Cashman said. "We're just going to go forward and fight and find a way.

"We have a lot of players here that believe in themselves and believe in each other. And we know our competition's fierce and tough and hungry. We've made a lot of enemies for the last 20 years, and people want to take advantage if we're down.

"Our job is to say we're not down. Our job is to prove we're not down. Our job is to find a way, and we expect to do that."

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