NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez and his potentially bruised ego might be the least of the New York Yankees' problems this offseason.
Ace CC Sabathia is going to have his left elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are aging stars dealing with major injuries. Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Swisher are headed for free agency. The list is a long one for the ballclub that was handed one of its most embarrassing exits from the postseason: a thorough four-game sweep by the Detroit Tigers in the AL championship series.
"Sometimes quiet's a bad thing, right?" manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. "There's been other years here that have been extremely — a lot of stuff going on in the offseason. Some injuries and other things we've had to deal with, and we've done just fine."
While the Yankees will have plenty of decisions to make this offseason, the one that will garner the most headlines and create the biggest stir is what — or what not — to do with A-Rod. He returned from a broken hand in September and struggled down the stretch and right into postseason. The 37-year-old third-baseman's regular-season numbers were the lowest they've been in his career for a full season, finishing with 18 homers and 57 RBIs.
Still, Girardi is planning for A-Rod to be in his lineup next year.
"I expect Alex to be our everyday third baseman. I do," Girardi said. "What does he have to show me? That he's healthy and ready to go."
Even if the Yankees would like to trade the three-time MVP, it will be extremely difficult: they owe him at least $114 million over the next five seasons.
Taking some time off after the team's early exit, Girardi hasn't spoken to Rodriguez since he benched the fading slugger three times in nine games this postseason and pinch hit for him on three other occasions. But he's prepared to deal with any of the fallout from decisions he insisted were well thought out.
"I'm always worried about whatever move I make, how it affects the club, how it affects a player, anything. I think it's something that, sure, I possibly might have to deal with more than I expected, but I possibly might may not have to deal with it at all," Girardi said. "As we move forward, I'll get a temperature on it, keep track of it and see how it's going."
Girardi had less to offer on a myriad of possible issues that could affect the team next season.
— He felt confident that Sabathia will be ready for spring training even though the left-hander is going to have his elbow examined by the doctor who is renowned for performing elbow-reconstruction surgery known as Tommy John surgery. Sabathia went on the disabled list this August because of swelling in the elbow — his second trip of the year to the DL after a groin strain.
"He pitched very well down the stretch, which made me feel very good about what's going on," Girardi said, "but at times people have to be evaluated to make sure everything is OK."
— Girardi also expects Jeter back on opening day. The captain had surgery Saturday after breaking his ankle on Oct. 13 during the ALCS. "Whenever a guy goes through something there are concerns because sometimes a player could rush it and tweak something else because he's rushing it and he's anxious to get out there ... so I think there's always a concern," Giradi said, "but, I mean, really in our hearts we believe that he's going to be ready for us."
— Giradi could not give a definitive answer on whether closer Mariano Rivera, out since tearing a ligament in his knee shagging flyballs in early May, will return next season. The closer, who will be 43 on Nov. 29, has been going through a rigorous rehab and has said he wants to return. But Girardi said he's never asked directly if he would come back. "I don't think you go through a rehab like he went with the intensity if you don't have some inkling that you want to come back," Girardi said.
Rivera's status will certainly affect Rafael Soriano. He saved 42 games in place of No. 42 and now has the option to walk away from a $14 million salary for next year, terminate his contract and become a free agent.
— On Andy Pettitte: Girardi is not sure the 40-year-old lefty will be back. Pettitte went 5-4, 2.87 ERA in his return from a one-year retirement, a season interrupted when he broke a bone in his lower leg. "There's a lot of hunger and fire there," he said. "Every year as you get a year older you have to ask yourself and your family am I ready to give up eight months of my life."
— Girardi is entering the final year of a three-year contract but doesn't expect to discuss it until after next season. "I understand how it works here and I'm OK with that," Girardi said.