PHOENIX - Joe Girardi hopes the rift between the Yankees and the man he replaced can eventually be mended
"I've seen a lot of things be repaired in life," Girardi said before last night's game, spending much of his meeting with reporters talking about this weekend's series against the Dodgers and Joe Torre. "In time we'll see what happens. There were a lot of good things that happened when Joe was with the Yankees."
While Torre's breakup with the Yankees after the 2007 season caused hard feelings on both ends - made worse with the publication of Torre's 2009 book "The Yankee Years" - those emotions don't exist between Torre and Girardi.
Girardi said he and Torre still keep in contact and said the call he received shortly after winning last year's World Series meant a lot.
"He called and congratulated me," Girardi said. "He told me, job well done. We talked for a few minutes and it was nice."
Nice because Girardi, who played for Torre and served as his bench coach in 2005, considers Torre a mentor.
"Played under him, coached under him, and I think whenever one of your mentors calls you and says, 'good job,' it has a special meaning," Girardi said.
Girardi said when the Yankees offered him the job in October 2007 he had "a little bit" of pause regarding the daunting task of taking over for a man who had won four World Series and never missed the postseason in his 12 seasons as manager. He spoke to Torre before accepting.
"I almost felt like I got Joe's blessing, which I think what every son looks to his father for, his blessing," Girardi said. "Because I talked to Joe ."
Girardi recalled two aspects of that conversation. "He said I think you'll do a good job and I want to wish you luck," Girardi recalled. "And the thing that just rings in my head all the time, what I remember the most, is he just said, be yourself."
Girardi said while the two have vastly different personalities, he's tried to integrate some of Torre's in his managing.
"His calmness, his relationships with players, not letting one or two games or a streak affect you," Girardi said. "Being the same every day no matter what's going on. Balancing your life . . . I think I took a lot of things that I watched him do and tried to incorporate it into what I do."
Girardi is understanding of the warm feelings that still exist between some of his players - most notably Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada - and Torre.
But that wasn't always the case.
"I had to realize that relationships you have with your players had to be done through your personality, not necessarily someone else's," Girardi said. "There were strong bonds there, and there's still strong bonds between Joe and the guys that played for Joe. And that's great. That's the way it should be. What you realize is you can't replace that bond. You have to form a different bond."
Girardi has faced questions about the Dodgers and Torre a couple times this week and he'll do so again Friday, and probably after that. But he's not dreading the series.
"I am looking forward to it because there's so much history between these two teams and I think there's going to be a lot of excitement," he said.