Joe Girardi on Yankees: 'This team could win 95 games and get to the World Series'
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Concerns?
He has a few.
But in Joe Girardi's mind, those aren't enough to dissuade him from his overriding opinion about the 2013 Yankees.
"This team could win 95 games and get to the World Series," Girardi said on Tuesday in his kickoff news conference.
Girardi did not tick off anything that surprised: the overall age of the roster, needing to see Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera -- both of whom are coming off major injuries and subsequent surgeries -- be able to get through the daily grind, and finding a righthanded designated hitter.
None are small issues but Girardi, in totality, likes his team.
"There's a lot of talent in that room," he said. "People thought we were vulnerable last year and we found a way to win 95 games. If other clubs want to think we're vulnerable, that's OK. But I love the character in that room. Every team is going to go through some difficulties this year in our division. It's how you overcome those that's probably going to determine our division and our guys have done that before and I like that."
The team is a year older with, most notably, the 38-year-old Jeter coming off surgery on his left ankle and the 43-year-old Rivera coming off a torn right ACL that cost him most of 2012.
"There's concern until you see him go through a week, maybe two weeks," Girardi said of Jeter. "In my mind, I believe he's going to be an everyday shortstop for us, but you still want to see it."
Of Rivera, Girardi said: "I would be more concerned with Mo if it was his arm than his knee. I don't think it should affect his pitching."
Girardi didn't mention catching as a concern but some opposing scouts have targeted that as perhaps the team's biggest question mark. The Yankees never made an offer to Russell Martin. The majority of the club's baseball operations staff wanted Martin retained, but the aspiration to get payroll to $189 million by 2014 won out.
So barring a move later in the spring, Girardi will choose from Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and prospect Austin Romine, with the latter the longest shot to win the job. "It's an opportunity for some players to step up," Girardi said.
Cervelli has the added burden of dealing with a story last week linking him to the Miami anti-aging clinic under investigation for allegedly distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
"It's a distraction he's going to have to block out and be able to perform," Girardi said.
General manager Brian Cashman and Girardi have talked about -- and opposing scouts agree on this point -- the defensive strengths of the catching contenders. "It's hard to quantify how many runs a catcher can save," said Girardi, a former catcher. "The two that we'll take will save a lot of runs for us."
As for the "too old" charge, Girardi shrugged.
"It's always a concern but that's something we've been talking about for [years]," he said. "Last year, we were old and we won 95 games. When I think about some of the age on this club, you might have to manage a little bit different than you would with a younger club. You might have to give a day off here and there more than if you had a bunch of 25-year-olds."