Alex Rodriguez Alex Rodriguez will return after being suspended for the entire 2014 season.
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For the second straight season, Joe Girardi conducted a press conference to reflect on the season before 10 other teams began the postseason.

To ensure that Girardi doesn’t face the same situation three years in a row, the Yankees will have to figure out how to fill the holes they currently have. The obvious one is as at shortstop, but there is also uncertainty surrounding Mark Teixeira and the return of Alex Rodriguez from a one-year suspension.

Girardi said he expects Rodriguez to be the third baseman but there’s a long time between now and spring training.

 

“We got to see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “I think that’s the thing that we have to do. He’s going to be 40 next summer and we have to see where he’s physically at and if he can play the field, how many days he can play the field and how many days he needs to DH. So I don’t think any of us know about him until we actually get him into games in spring training.”

The Yankees' woes were often centered on the middle of their order in Teixeira, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. McCann struggled in his first year, even with a late power surge, while Teixeira and Beltran are question marks.

Those three combined for a paltry .227 average (304-for-1,338) with 60 home runs, 186 RBIs and 266 strikeouts. None of them had an on-base percentage over .313.

But Girardi is maintaining an optimistic tone, especially as it pertains to a rotation that has Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova coming off injuries.

“I look around and say we have a lot of good pieces, we do,” Girardi said. “Obviously when you look at your rotation a little bit, there’s some guys coming back from injury but we expect them back and we expect them to be competitive and you saw some guys come up and throw the ball well.

“We expect to be a healthier club next year with people being a year removed from surgeries. We saw some people have some very good years, so I’m not sure the task is maybe as big as a lot of people think. The thing is keeping guys healthy and productive is our biggest task.”

Not keeping guys healthy is among the chief reasons for the Yankees falling a few games short the last two seasons. So while they did have winning seasons of 85 and 84 wins, the expectations were much higher in a year in which the Yankees spent heavily in free agency.

“For me, the sense of urgency is every year,” Girardi said. “Will there be more pressure on me? It won't change who I am, just because the pressure that I feel is from within. Is there more pressure on the club? God, I hope they feel the same as I do. As the pressure should come from within, not what your expectations are. Certainly, your expectations should be to win everything when you go into camp. Maybe some teams say our chances aren't as good as other teams. But why in the heck ... Hopefully that feeling is there and the expectations, the pressures, are coming from within, that you want to be a champ.”

The word champion hasn’t been mentioned with the Yankees since Nov. 4, 2009 when a 103-win team scored 915 runs, batted .283 and slugged 244 home runs. The Yankees have a long way to go to reach those lofty expectations.

“I really still believe that there's enough talent in that room that, if when you put all the pieces on the field, to score runs. I do,” Girardi said. “We didn't do it enough this year. I understand that. But I still believe there's enough talent in that room and time is going to tell. That's the one thing that we’re going to have.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.

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