Besides managing with his gut Wednesday, Joe Girardi has been managing with a heavy heart.
Though the Yankees officially released the news Thursday afternoon, Girardi found out his father Jerry Girardi had succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease Saturday afternoon at the age of 81 at Snyder Village, a residential healthcare provider, in Metamora, Ill.
“It’s been somewhat difficult,” Girardi said before Thursday’s Game 4. “One of the reasons I didn’t say anything, I knew talking about it would make it probably even harder.”
The public release of the news came on a day when Girardi could revel in his decision to use Raul Ibanez as a pinch hitter less than 24 hours earlier in winning Game 3.
“He would have been extremely proud and probably told all his buddies,” Girardi said.
Girardi found out as the team bus was on the West Side of Manhattan heading to Penn Station for the train trip to Baltimore.
He did not tell any of his players, but confided in a few unnamed members of the organization.
“I feel bad. My thoughts and prayers go to him and his family,” Derek Jeter said. “It’s a tough thing to deal with. I don’t really know what to say.”
“It’s a tragedy,” reliever David Robertson said. “But he said he’s going to be here tonight, so we’ll try to win.”
After finding out the news, Girardi went to work on preparing for the series. He was not planning on telling the team until the series concluded since the funeral is taking place Monday, which would be a workout day in the ALCS.
“I had tears in my eyes on the bus, so I put some sunglasses on,” Girardi said. “And probably what a lot of men do when they go through difficult and sad times, we try to stay busy. That’s what we do and I tried to focus on what we were trying to accomplish and what we were doing because that’s what my dad would have done.”
Girardi has often cited his father as being a significant influence in career as a player and manager. His father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years and Girardi uses his Catch25 foundation to raise funds for the disease.
“When I sit and think about it, I had a tremendous relationship with my father,” Girardi said. “Wherever he went, I went. When he stopped, I ran into him. I’ve always said if I could be half the husband and father my dad could be, that would be special.”
The Yankees were planning a moment of silence before the game.
Rodriguez hits fifth
A day after pinch hitting Alex Rodriguez with Raul Ibanez, Girardi placed the slumping third baseman in the fifth spot.
Though many have called for Rodriguez to be removed from the third spot, it’s a move that was based on the matchup against left-handed starting pitcher Joe Saunders. Taking Rodriguez’s spot as the team’s third-place hitter was switch-hitting Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira appeared in 83 games against left-handed pitching, which are 26 fewer games than he faced right-handed pitching. His average against lefties was .269 as compared with .239 off righties.
As for Rodriguez, who is 1-for-12 in the series, he batted .308 against left-handed pitching in 76 games as compared with a .256 average in 115 games against right-handers.
“I’ve liked [Teixeira]’s at-bats too against left-handers,” Girardi said. “And Texy has been one of our most productive hitters against left-handers. He swung it really well against Saunders the last time we faced him too. I could have went either way on that with Alex third and Texy fifth, but you put the switch-hitter in between. I don’t mind doing that. I could have gone either way.”
Besides moving Rodriguez down, Girardi also addressed if there were any possibly lingering effects from his gut decision to pinch hit for him. Photos of them appeared having a conversation in the dugout that looked tense but Girardi maintained that was not the case.
“We were talking,” Girardi said. “He wasn’t angry. I don’t think it will change our relationship. I think we have a very open dialogue. We have a very honest relationship. I trust him. I expect big things from him tonight. I still believe he’s a great player.
“Sometimes as a human being you have to make tough calls and sometimes it’s not going to please everyone. Geez, I can remember a lot of tough calls my dad made and it didn’t please me. So I don’t think so, but time will tell.”
Jeter in the lineup as DH
When it pertains to minor injuries, the conversation between Girardi and Derek Jeter is brief. The manager asks how his captain is feeling and the response is usually “Great” or “OK, I’m playing.”
Girardi’s response was to make Jeter the designated hitter and play Jayson Nix at shortstop. Thursday night marked Jeter’s first start at DH in 156 career postseason games.
Jeter was replaced by Nix in the eighth inning of Game 3 due to a bone bruise on the top of his left foot. He originally suffered the injury during an earlier at-bat Wednesday after fouling a ball off it.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.