Joe Girardi has rebounded nicely, thank you. In fact, rebounding has become a specialty in his first season out of managing since 2007, now that he can help his children practice.
“My daughter [Lena] is a fifth-grader playing basketball,” he said on Tuesday. “I do a lot of rebounding, I can tell you that. I don’t get to shoot a lot, but I get to do the dirty work.”
Such is life now for the former Yankees manager, who was let go after a 10-year run and is working as a studio analyst for MLB Network and spending quality time with his family as he plans for an eventual return to the dugout.
“I think sometimes it’s harder watching your kids play than managing the Yankees,” he said before the second of his three MLBN shifts this week. “You go through the emotions they go through and you want it so badly for them.”
Girardi and his wife, Kim, also have a daughter, Serena, who is in college and a son, Dante, a sophomore in high school who plays baseball.
“It is somewhat weird not managing when I’ve been doing it 11 out of the last 12 years, 10 in a row,” he said. “It was unusual not to go to spring training — not that I missed it — but it has been great spending a lot of time with my wife and children, and I’ve enjoyed that immensely.”
The MLB Network job lets him keep a hand in the game and tabs on all of Major League Baseball during what usually will be a couple of three-day stretches per month.
Still, he said, “I do want to manage again and obviously will approach it as opportunities come up.”
In the meantime, he will be asked early and often about the Yankees. On Tuesday he did not go into detail about their 8-7 start, saying he had not had time to watch many games. But he did urge patience after two weeks marred by weather disruptions.
What about the awkwardness of critiquing former players, not to mention the guy who replaced him, Aaron Boone?
“I know how to navigate it,” he said. “For the most part, I’m going to be optimistic, because it is who I am . . . I believe they are very talented, and I believe they’re going to have a lot of success. That’s not why I’m not making too much out of 15 games with all these inconsistencies they’ve had to go through.”
As for whether he will actually root for the Yankees, that inevitably is complicated in these situations.
“You pull for individuals, because you had such a strong relationship with them for a lot of years,” he said. “That’s individuals not just on the field, it’s individuals off the field as well.
“It’s been a huge part of my life for the last 10 years, so I will pull for the individuals.”
Girardi appeared tan and rested on MLB Network Monday. He said the tan part can be attributed to spending more time in Florida. But he resisted the notion his intensity required a break from the game.
“I really love managing,” he said. “I think sometimes people can misinterpret focus for being uptight. I’m a very focused individual. I’ve always been that way, no matter what I’m doing, whether I was in the classroom or I’m in the gym working out.
“I’m a routine guy and that’s who I am, but I miss it and I look forward to going back to it. The great thing is I’ve gotten time to spend time with my family.”
One Yankee who is off to a conspicuously slow start is Giancarlo Stanton, who was not one of Girardi’s players. Again, Girardi counseled patience.
“I think there are a lot of adjustments that sometimes don’t really get talked about that he’s going through,” he said of Stanton. “He’s seeing pitchers, a lot of for the first time. He’s seeing backdrops, a lot of them, for the first time. He is getting used to his field.
“He’s changed positions, in a sense, twice. He’s played left, so that was a change from right, and he’s DH’ed and that was a change. He has had miserable weather to play in. He’s used to playing in Miami in controlled conditions. So there are a lot of adjustments and, let’s not forget, the adjustment to playing in New York.
“I think it’s going to take some time. If in a sense I was managing him I wouldn’t be too worried because I think a two-week period, 15 games, is such a small sample size, and I’ve seen a lot of players come there and it’s taken them time . . . I think sometimes when you’re going through your struggles it’s difficult, but when you think about it, the Yankee fans are really pulling for him.
“Those boos, in a sense, are, ‘Man, we really want you to do well and we want you to be the guy that you were with Miami,’ and I think he will be.”
Gary Sanchez’s ongoing development is a matter of particular interest for Girardi, given that they are both catchers, and that Girardi’s focus on Sanchez’s defense was an ongoing story line.
“He obviously has to put the work in,” Girard said. “He has the ability, to me, to be one of the greatest all-time catchers all-around because of what he can do offensively.
“You look at the arm strength, the ability to play every day, and there’s a lot of great qualities. I know at times people have been hard [on him], but he does not have an easy staff to catch, not whatsoever.
“He has a lot of hard throwers that have a lot of movement and he’ll continue to improve just as he plays every day, just as he gets to understand his staff better and better.”
With the Mets off to the kind of start many predicted for the Yankees, does Girardi believe they can sustain it?
“I think they have the chance to be very good, if they’re able to stay healthy,” he said. “I think that rotation is outstanding and that bullpen, until [Monday] night, has been really, really good. They got their closer back.
“I think [former Yankee Todd] Frazier’s influence in the clubhouse will help the team out a lot. I do believe they’re going to be around all year unless they sustain injuries.”