Sunday, March 16, 2008

Island Packet - Girardi already putting his stamp on Yankees

It hasn't taken Joe Girardi long to show the baseball world what they can expect from him as manager of the New York Yankees.

This isn't just another Joe, as in Torre, whom he succeeded when the longtime Yankee manager told the Steinbrenners to stuff their one-year contract and headed West to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Torre, like Atlanta's Bobby Cox, has long been considered a "player's manager." Girardi comes across more like a drill sergeant. No cheerleader, no airs, no glossing over the truth, he speaks articulately and tells it the way he thinks it is.

Girardi hit the ground running when he arrived at the Yankees spring training camp in Tampa. He immediately told his players to get used to running, too. Running, as in exercising.

Actually, Yankee players were forewarned this winter when Girardi called each individual and told them they had better be ready for a strong conditioning program. He was unhappiest with Bobby Abreu and said so publicly.

Yankee management felt that Abreu's lack of conditioning last spring contributed to a rib injury that resulted in a poor first half of the season. The outfielder promised he would "come to camp in shape and stay in shape."

Abreu has kept his word and weighs 10 pounds less than he did a year ago. "I feel I can move better," he said this week. "I feel ready to go."

Other players have said that Girardi's conditioning program has kept the Yankees free from significant injuries that plagued the team last spring and there's a perception that Torre wasn't tough enough in recent training camps.

However, Girardi has professed a great deal of respect for Torre and hopes to emulate him in the way he handled players.

"Joe Torre was great at getting the most out of people," Girardi told Mark Feindsand of the New York Daily News. "There was a calmness there every day in a world that wasn't always so calm."

It'll be interesting to see how Camp Girardi translates into the team's performance. More and more it seems like letting Joe Torre go was the right move.

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