“I was surprised at first. I didn’t really see that coming,” Gardner said Tuesday. “He’s a great player. You put him on our team or any other team across baseball and he makes them better. I look forward to playing beside him and learning from him and got a feeling he knows a thing or two about some pitchers — especially in our division — and pushing each other and getting the best out of each other.”
Although it seems likely Jacoby Ellsbury will be the Yankees center fielder coming into 2014, it leaves Gardner’s role on the Yankees up in the air. Gardner could either be the every day left fielder, forcing Alfonso Soriano to be the designated hitter, or Gardner could be the fourth outfielder on the team. Gardner admits he hasn’t been told what position he’ll play this offseason, but he’s open to doing what the Yankees ask of him.
“It’s not really anything I control. Go in, play hard, and I’ve played left field before and I’ve played center field, and I’m sure if they needed me to I could slide over and play right field, too,” Gardner said before being honored at the 34th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner in Manhattan. “Whatever it takes to help the team win and I’m sure they’re going to put our best team on the field.”
Although Gardner’s role seems a bit shaky right now, Gardner said manager Joe Girardi called him during the holidays, letting him know his job wasn’t in danger and the Yankees have “huge” plans for him. It was around the time rumors were flying everywhere about Gardner during the Winter Meetings, and although he desperately wanted to stay with the Yankees, he understood baseball was a business, calling the rumor talks ‘bittersweet’.
“I try to block it out as much as I can. I try not to drive myself crazy thinking about what might happen or what might not happen,” Gardner said. “All offseason I’ve expected to stay with the Yankees, go down to Tampa for spring training until I hear otherwise, and so far, so good. Still headed to Tampa so I’m excited about it.”
Gardner was also asked about the Alex Rodriguez situation, but he didn’t go into much detail about it. He did say he wished the entire situation was handled differently, and that it never happened.
“I don’t know what to expect with that. I haven’t even thought about that,” Gardner said of Rodriguez attending spring training. “I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”