Torre expects Girardi to settle in
Former Yankees manager familiar with job's adjustment period
LAS VEGAS -- Joe Girardi believes that the experience of having used the manager seat of the New York Yankees will benefit him in 2009. So does someone who knows a thing or two about it.
Girardi's predecessor, Joe Torre, said on Tuesday that he kept an eye on the new skipper's travails before painting an optimistic picture for the future.
"There was a lot of pressure on him, in my mind," Torre said of Girardi. "It's an adjustment period. I think it beat on him a little bit last year. I think it will be better for him [in 2009]."
The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons in 2008, finishing with 89 victories and a third-place mention in the American League East in Girardi's first season with the club. But with what he hopes will be a restocked rotation and a healthier lineup, Girardi believes Year 2 will be a smoother ride.
"I think any time you experience something, it becomes easier the more and more you do it," Girardi said. "There will be situations that come up that you'll have to deal with, but you can draw on your experiences, and I think that's real important."
While the inaugural campaign under Girardi was marred by injuries and inconsistency from numerous players, Torre said he also thought there were some "growing pains" as the new man made the job his own -- a comment Girardi did not dispute.
"We didn't envision a lot of things that we went through last year," Girardi said. "Was I happy about it? No, but you're still the same person every day.
"I came to work with a positive attitude and expected the most out of the players. I think the players played hard all the way throughout. I'm proud of them for that, but it wasn't what I envisioned when I took the job."
Torre rejected a one-year contract offer from the Yankees after the 2007 season, deeming it an "insult," and quickly landing with the Dodgers, who shuffled Grady Little from the position.
Close friends with Torre, Girardi outlasted competitors Don Mattingly and Tony Pena for the Yankees' managerial vacancy and worked to make the job his own, implementing a more rigorous Spring Training program and also controlling aspects of the clubhouse like the availability of candy and sweets.
While Torre often said that he was consumed with what was happening with his playoff-bound Los Angeles club, there were times when he reached out. Torre called Girardi after an April series at Fenway Park in Boston, asking of Girardi's first Red Sox-Yankees tilt, "How'd you like that?"
"You have a feeling of what it's going to be like on an everyday basis, but until you actually sit in that seat, you don't really know," Girardi said. "Some things are easier; some might have been a little bit harder. All in all, I thought it was a great experience."
Torre has remained in touch with his former players. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera all said during the season that they had spoken to the Dodgers manager, and free-agent left-hander Andy Pettitte recently chatted with Torre about the idea of pitching for the Dodgers.
Torre said he "jumped at that opportunity, just to let him know we had interest," but the skipper maintains that he believes Pettitte will eventually settle his salary squabble and re-sign with the Yankees.
Torre was less certain on the fate of another left-handed Yankees target, CC Sabathia, who reportedly told Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti on Sunday that he would like to pitch at Chavez Ravine. That would be a blow to the Yankees, who have been waiting for Sabathia to accept their six-year, $140 million offer since Nov. 14.
"You hear rumors," Torre said. "The fact he makes a statement like that certainly teases you. But there's a long way between wanting to [play for the Dodgers] and going to."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.