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Joe Girardi on Yankees' needs: 'There's some question marks' with our rotation

Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks on during a

Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks on during a game against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium on July 24, 2014. Credit: Mike Stobe

SAN DIEGO - While Brian Cashman declined to publicly prioritize his club's areas of need to be addressed the rest of the offseason, Joe Girardi had no such reservations.

"I think you have to think about the depth of the rotation," the Yankees manager said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after arriving for baseball's winter meetings. "There's some question marks."

Are there ever.

Cashman filled two major holes Friday, completing a deal for shortstop Didi Gregorius and signing lefty reliever Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36-million deal. But plenty of holes abound, most strikingly in the rotation, which is pockmarked with issues.

As one opposing team talent evaluator put it: "There isn't one guy you'd pencil in right now as giving you a guaranteed 15 starts, let alone 30."

Or, as another opposing team scout said: "I'd argue they just traded their healthiest [starting arm]," referencing Shane Greene, sent to the Tigers as part of the Gregorius trade.

All indications are Masahiro Tanaka is healthy and having a normal offseason after suffering a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in July, but the Yankees will sweat out every pitch of the spring, hoping the next delivery won't result in a full-blown tear that requires season-ending Tommy John surgery. That worry is likely to extend well into, if not throughout, the season.

"We're counting on him to make his 32 starts," Girardi said, though he added later: "It's just something I think you have to pay attention to."

Michael Pineda is coming off a strong season, though one in which a shoulder injury limited him to 13 starts. Ivan Nova had Tommy John surgery in late April and isn't expected back until mid-May at the earliest. Then there's CC Sabathia, who missed most of last season with a degenerative cartilage condition in his right knee. He and the Yankees say he will be ready to go in the spring but, privately, few in the organization believe a healthy and successful season from the former ace can be counted on.

"There's some concerns," Girardi said collectively of the group. "We feel good about them coming back . . . but as we've seen, you need more than five starters, usually."

The options?

Brandon McCarthy, who pitched well after being acquired from Arizona midseason, remains the team's top pitching target. But the righthander, who has expressed a desire to return to the Bronx, very well may wait to see where top-tiered free agents Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields end up before choosing his destination. The Yankees could have Adam Warren, who excelled in the bullpen last season, and swingman David Phelps compete for rotation spots in the spring and executing a trade for a pitcher such as Cole Hamels is also possible.

Cashman said he checked in with the A's on Jeff Samardzija, ultimately dealt to the White Sox, "but there wasn't a match from their perspective."

The Yankees remain loath to add another big-money free-agent contract but can't be counted out from making a late push for Shields or Scherzer, particularly the latter, if both stay on the board well into January.

"Not in my best interest to say," Cashman said of a possible interest in one of the top pitchers.

Does he see getting rotation depth essential?

"We'd like to do some quality business when and if it presents itself," Cashman said, again steering clear of a direct answer. "Believe me, I've thrown a lot of ideas. They have yet to be accepted and I've had a lot of ideas I have yet to accept. That doesn't mean we can't get something done by tonight or tomorrow but there's no guarantee we'll get anything done this week, either. We have to wait and see how it shakes out."

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