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Girardi focused on playoffs, not his future

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, foreground, watches

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, foreground, watches the baseball game against the Boston Red Sox with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010, in Boston. The Red Sox won 8-4. Photo Credit: AP

MINNEAPOLIS - On the eve of the Yankees' postseason opener Joe Girardi planned to go out to dinner with his coaching staff last night, with their Game 1 lineup an expected topic for discussion.

The Yankees manager admitted after the Yankees' workout at Target Field last night that he already had a lineup in mind, but with another 24 hours still to go until game-time he wanted to wait before announcing it. He said he first wanted to "discuss more things" with his fellow coaches.

That, of course, is classic Girardi. In his three years as Yankees manager, he has proved to be exhaustive in his pregame analysis and at the same time careful with his public words, not wanting to have to talk himself into a corner on the off chance he changes his mind.

There's an interesting parallel to make there with his contractual status. He can become a free agent after the postseason ends because the Yankees' policy is to let their employee contracts expire before negotiating new ones. And there's a strong likelihood that the manager-less Chicago Cubs - the team he grew up rooting for and began his playing career with - will at least place a call to gauge his interest in managing them.

When the Yankees visited the White Sox in late August, Girardi carefully danced around reporters' questions regarding the Cubs' expected interest in him, saying that the Yankees are his priority and that he wouldn't address these questions again until after the season.

But it says something that one month later no one in the Yankees clubhouse even hints that Girardi's uncertain future could be on his mind entering the postseason. To his players, that's not a possibility.

First-year Yankee Curtis Granderson described his manager as "very loose and relaxed," which is definitely far from the tense vibe he sometimes gives off on camera during games. And Nick Swisher, in his second year playing for Girardi, went so far as to describe him more as a friend than a manager.

"For the first time in my career I have a manager who has the player's back, who has the player's best interest," Swisher said. "He doesn't really worry about anything other than wins and losses."

Girardi, meanwhile, received his share of criticism during last year's playoff run, most notably for his constant mixing and matching with his relievers in late innings. But those questions quickly dissipated once he successfully navigated the Yankees to their first World Series championship since 2000.

This year Girardi's Yankees enter the postseason coming off their worst stretch of the season, losing 17 of their final 26 games. But players Tuesday were as confident as they've been all season.

And their manager was doing what he does best, strategically preparing for the road ahead.

"The scenarios that you can create are endless," Girardi said when asked about his postseason roster decisions. "You talk about should I do this or should I do that? You try to cover all of your bases as best as you can."

New York Sports