TAMPA — Yankees manager Joe Girardi sat down for his first area press conference of the spring, surrounded by dozens of media members in the Steinbrenner Field dugout, and started with some levity.
"So, (wanna talk about) CC?" Girardi said, smiling.
But for the first 25 minutes, there was no talk of the close to $450 million the club spent in free agents — star pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, along with slugger Mark Teixeira. Nor was there a whimper about the recently released Joe Torre book, or trying to dethrone the Rays as defending AL East Champions.
It was all A-Rod.
Girardi said he was "surprised" but not angry when he found out Saturday Alex Rodriguez admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while with the Rangers. Girardi said he believes Rodriguez when he stated he's been clean since joining the Yankees and doesn't expect an apology, nor does he know if Rodriguez plans to address the team.
Girardi said the All-Star third baseman has "thick skin" and expects him to have another good season — despite the distractions — and is confident his players will "rally around" Rodriguez during a season in which expectations are still high.
"I think it will take some time," Girardi said. "Each day that goes by, it's the start of a healing process."
Girardi said that in terms of Rodriguez's legacy, there is some trust that has to be regained. He said he's "disappointed" with what's happened to the game and believes everyone, including himself, was "negligent" in not staying ahead of the curve on the steroid issue.
But with Rodriguez, Girardi feels that a lot of good can come out of the recent admission, with Rodriguez having a great "platform" on the issue from this point forward.