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With Derek Jeter retired, Girardi moves on to A-Rod questions

Yankees manager Joe Girardi speaks to the media

Yankees manager Joe Girardi speaks to the media at Yankee Stadium on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014 the Bronx. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Joe Girardi spent the last few weeks talking almost exclusively about Derek Jeter. On the first day after a disappointing season, the focus shifted to -- remember him? -- Alex Rodriguez, whom Girardi expects to have some kind of role with the 2015 Yankees.

"He hasn't played in a year,'' Girardi said Monday. "That's not easy to do, to sit out a year, so I have to see where he's at. Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. But in fairness, you have to see where he's at.

"I can't tell you what's going to happen, but we expect him to be our third baseman.''

How realistic that is on a day-to-day basis remains to be seen.

Rodriguez, 39, missed the season, serving a 162-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis. Before that, his body showed signs of breaking down, as he ended up on the disabled list for one reason or another each season from 2008-13.

All indications are that A-Rod, who is owed $61 million over the next three seasons, is in good shape, working out much of the season in Los Angeles and at his home in Miami. But whether he'll be able to survive the grind of spring training and a full season cannot be determined.

"I don't think any of us knows about him until we get him in games in spring training,'' Girardi said.

And what a circus that will be, similar to the one when he returned to the club in August 2013 while he appealed the initial Biogenesis suspension handed down by commissioner Bud Selig.

"I think our players will handle it fine,'' Girardi said of potential distractions. "The first couple days of spring training, there will be more attention, but that will die down because something else will happen in sports that helps it die.''

Girardi said he stayed in contact with Rodriguez throughout the season -- primarily via text message -- and isn't concerned about any negative repercussions from the slew of lawsuits, since dropped, that A-Rod filed against the team.

"I have a good relationship with Alex, and his teammates enjoy Alex, his presence in the clubhouse, the way he likes to teach the game and talk about the game,'' Girardi said.

"Will he have to deal with some angry fans? Yeah, but we'll help him get through that. But when's the last time Alex hasn't had to deal with that? It's not like it's something he's not used to and sometimes players thrive on that, so maybe it will help him.''

All of those issues will be dealt with in due time, and the Yankees have plenty on their plate before then. They have to decide what to do with their own free agents, such as David Robertson, Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy and Stephen Drew; Jeter must be replaced; the pitching staff needs bolstering, and they could use a bat.

The Yankees underperformed in a number of categories and missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-93. Girardi, while safe with three years remaining on his contract, hinted changes could come on his coaching staff.

Hitting coach Kevin Long, the target of fans' ire much of the season, has one year left on his contract (and is a favorite of A-Rod). Tony Peña (bench), Rob Thomson (third base) and Mick Kelleher (first) are on one-year deals.

"I can tell you one thing, they worked extremely hard for me,'' Girardi said. "What I've said is we're going to sit down and evaluate everything, just like we do every year . . . We're all being evaluated. We've missed the playoffs two years in a row.''

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