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Joe Girardi expects Yankees to contend for the division crown

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks on

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks on from the dugout against the Baltimore Orioles during a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

While the roster and conventional wisdom both suggest the Yankees are in future mode, their manager believes they are primed to be a contender right now.

“I think we’re a club that’s fighting for our division. That’s who I think we are,” Joe Girardi, wearing a Northwestern shirt, said at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon before watching his alma mater defeat Pittsburgh, 31-24, in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Girardi acknowledged the Yankees’ inexperience, adding, “I think we’re a team that people might say is in transition because there are a lot of young players being introduced into the lineup. But these are good players, these are impactful players.

“There will probably be more competition in spring training than maybe any year since I’ve been here. But that’s a good thing. I think competition brings out the best. I think there’s a group of young players who are really close, they really push each other, they really pull for each other.

“A lot of them play the same position. Your first goal is to win your division and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

He also said Greg Bird is healthy but is not a certainty to be the starting first baseman: “I think Tyler Austin is going to do everything he can to say something about who plays first base.” Similarly, Luis Severino must prove he can be effective three times through a lineup to earn a place in the rotation.

The manager is pleased with the offseason transactions that brought Matt Holliday (“We feel we’re getting a middle-of-the-order hitter and we’re excited about that”) and brought back Aroldis Chapman (“We saw what he is capable of doing here. He liked it here”). As for a possible three-way trade involving Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, he said, “I can’t really get into those types of things. That’s more of a question for Brian Cashman.”

And, as a Chicago-area native who grew up dreaming of playing for the Cubs (and ultimately did so), he was happy for the fans who celebrated the World Series. “My father waited a long time, he didn’t get to see it,” Girardi said. “He got to see it from up above.”

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