NEW YORK — Yankees manager Joe Girardi sat in the interview room wearing a pinstriped shirt. This one, however, was of the dress variety with a collar. There was no interlocking NY of the Yankees jersey.
And with good reason: No game to play Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.
Five days after the season ended too soon for an organization determined to win the World Series every year, Girardi cited "luck" 10 times as one of the reasons the offense repeatedly failed to get big hits from sluggers Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher throughout the five-game, first-round playoff loss against the Detroit Tigers.
"Please, make no mistakes. Detroit wasn't lucky. Detroit beat us. But some of your at-bats can be a product of just good fortune," Girardi said. "You can get jammed and get a base hit or you can hit a rocket and it gets caught. The bottom line is you have to have good at-bats. I thought our guys had some good at-bats. I do. We just didn't get that big hit when we really needed it."
Even though A-Rod hit .111 (2 for 18) and Teixeira was a hit better at .167 against Detroit, the one player who has something to lose for failing in the playoffs could be Swisher, a career .169 hitter in the postseason. The enthusiastic right fielder's most recent struggles — 4 for 19 (.211) with one homer and one RBI against Detroit — came at an inopportune time. New York holds a $10.25 million option with a $1 million buyout on his contract.
With a weak free agent market for outfielders, the Yankees will look at Swisher's entire resume when determining if the fan favorite will be back.
"When we sit down as a group we talk about everything," Girardi said. "You don't just take a two-week period or a month or two months, you look at everything ... he's been an on-base guy for us, he's driven in runs, he's hit home runs for us. I think he plays a better right field than people give him credit for, too.
"But as you look at your players and you try to improve your club, and that's something we always try to do, you have to take everything into account."
The one player the organization wants to have back with little evaluation necessary is 19-game winner CC Sabathia. The ace of a rotation in flux can opt out of his 7-year, $161 million contract by the third day after the end of the World Series.
"I can't imagine what it would be like without him," Girardi said. "I don't want to imagine what it would be like without him."
He almost certainly won't have to.
Sabathia moved his family to New Jersey, and he has repeatedly said he loves playing in New York. With the top free-agent pitchers this offseason being C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson, the Yankees will likely give the 31-year-old Sabathia several additional years above the four years and $92 million that remains on his current contract.
The rest of the starters, though, are a question mark.
"The one need that we're going to have to address again is our rotation, there's no doubt about it," Girardi said. "It probably all starts with CC and then you go from there."
Most of the work won't begin until general manager Brian Cashman's contract status is resolved. His deal is up at the end of the month and has said he would like to return.
The brightest spot in the starting five this season was rookie Ivan Nova. He won 16 games and proved he could withstand the pressure of being No. 2 in the rotation down the stretch in New York, winning his last 12 decisions.
But Phil Hughes took a step backward after winning 18 games in 2010. Hughes had a loss of velocity and struggled with injuries, making only 14 starts. A.J. Burnett continued his downward trend, finishing 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, third worst among all qualifying pitchers.
Burnett has two years left on a five-year, $82.5 million deal and will be in the rotation. Girardi expects Nova and Hughes to return, as well, but he's not promising anything.
"I would assume that they both would be part of our rotation. But I can't tell you what they're going to do this winter or how they're going to come in and perform," he said. "I know they're going to work hard, but nothing in life is ever given to you. You have to earn it."
The Yankees could try to make a trade for a front-line starter and their best bait, Jesus Montero, proved to be the able bat that everyone had been predicting for the 21-year-old catching prospect. Montero hit .328 as a September callup and could be expendable for the catching-rich organization.
The Yankees benefited from signing veteran pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to minor league deals last winter (they both will be free agents). Both turned out to be keys to filling out the rotation this year, and Girardi wouldn't discount bringing more than five starters to spring training for a little competition.
"I don't think you can have too much depth in the starting rotation," Girardi said. "But that's something we'll have to talk about."
NOTES: LHP Aaron Laffey was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals. ... LHP Raul Valdes and RHP Scott Proctor have elected free agency rather than be outrighted off the major league roster.
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