Brett Gardner’s message to Yankees fans: ‘It’s gonna be fun’


With the Yankees spring training getting started Tuesday when pitchers and catchers report, veteran outfielder Brett Gardner takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Describe the team’s great expectations.
A: I think the expectations for our team are super-high, sky-high. I feel like we had a much better season than a lot of people kind of predicted and a lot of people thought we were kind of have. We proved a lot of people wrong. … I think anytime with the Yankees, any years you don’t win the World Series it’s a disappointment, but this year we obviously didn’t even make it to the World Series but it didn’t feel like so much of a disappointment. With some of these young kids that we have, just seeing the talent that they have and what they have between their ears and what they have inside of ’em, the way they play the game, it’s exciting for us as veteran players and the coaches that not only at the big league level but have helped them all along the way through the minor leagues, and I think most importantly it’s just exciting for our fans. The way that we played last year with such energy and excitement and being able to make it back to October, that’s what it’s about in New York and it was a lot of fun.

Q: Would anything short of a World Series championship be a failure this season?
A: I came up with the Yankees in 2008, and that’s how I was raised of you will in the Yankee organization, and I don’t think that’s ever changed. I don’t think that the expectations should ever be lowered. I think that the AL East and the American League and baseball in general is as competitive as it has ever been, at least as competitive as I have seen in my 10 years. It’s a tough battle every year, but that’s our goal, is to win the division and get back to the playoffs and do everything we can to make it back to the World Series and win the World Series. So with the guys that we have in place, I think that we’re definitely capable of doing that.

Q: What can Giancarlo Stanton do for Aaron Judge?
A: Wow. Well, what can they do for each other even more importantly? I think that Stanton obviously is a guy who’s still young but he’s been around a little longer, obviously had more success than Aaron to this point. They’re very similar players in so many ways. Everybody wants to compare ’em because they’re as big as they are … the position that they play and the way that they play and the way that they hit, and just the sheer power that they have, I think that Giancarlo is definitely somebody has already started to pick his brain and is gonna continue to, and continue to learn from him. The other side is Giancarlo, he’s probably never played in an atmosphere that some of us guys played in just as recently as last September and October. I know that he’s superexcited to get to New York and to experience the bright lights and the big city. He’s a guy that is very, very, very competitive and to this point in his career, he’s never had a chance to go into the postseason and do those things that he aspires to do, and hopefully we get a chance to do that together this year.

Q: Is the MLB single-season team home run record — 264 by the Mariners in 1987 — in danger?
A: (Laugh) I don’t know if it’s in danger. I think that’s obviously a very high number, [but] I think it’s definitely within reach. A lot of things have to go right obviously, but just as a lot of things have to go right for a team to make it to the playoffs and possibly win the World Series, a lot of things would have to go right for our team to be able to break that record. The pitching last year in 2017 was as tough as I’ve ever seen it, and I’m sure this year’s gonna be even a little tougher. … I feel like the game is a little more defensive-oriented. Even with the increase in home runs last year I think it’s just become increasingly harder to hit a baseball to be honest. That’s a very high number, but I think it’s attainable. We’ll see if everybody can stay healthy.

Paul J. Bereswill

Q: What is your message to Yankees fans?
A: (Laugh) Come out early and watch these guys take BP. I think it’s gonna be fun. I think I’m gonna start taking batting practice inside so those big guys don’t make me look bad. Not just Giancarlo Stanton, but you’ve got guys like Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres competing for a job in the infield and possibly both those guys could potentially be in the lineup Opening Day, and just a lot of young guys that have got a lot of talent and are ready for their chance, and we’re excited about it.

Q: What are your thoughts about Didi Gregorius?
A: One of the most underrated players in the game. I obviously get to play left field behind him. He’s got so much range at shortstop. He’s got such a good first step, and he’s got such a great arm and such good instincts, and he’s really, really matured here as a hitter over the last year or two, and it’s just a lot of fun to watch him kind of transform before our eyes from a good player into a really, really great player.

Q: Gary Sanchez?
A: Ridiculously talented. For me, has a chance to be the best catcher in the game over the next few years if he just continues to work and continues to mature and continues to improve his game on both sides of the ball. He’s just got so much talent at the plate.

Q: Greg Bird?
A: I’m fans of all these guys, but he’s a ridiculous amount of potential. For him, it’s just a matter of being able to stay on the field and stay healthy. He’s has some bad luck, dealt with some injuries, and really attacked his rehab and come back with a positive attitude. I know that’s not easy, especially as a young player where you’re trying to get your feet wet in the big leagues. … We’re looking forward to getting him for a full season.

Q: Gleyber Torres?
A: I saw him some last spring, and I was very impressed with what I saw, and everybody I’ve talked to within the organization — whether it be players who have played with him, guys that were his teammates, or either coached and instructors in the minor leagues. From what I hear, this kid’s really got a chance to be really special. He can play multiple positions and move around a little bit. Very athletic and just very advanced approach at the plate. I think we’re gonna see a lot of him this year.

Q: Will you pick Russell Wilson’s brain?
A: (Laugh) Yeah, try to, maybe run a couple of routes for him and have some fun. I’ve spoken to a couple of guys already, we’re excited to have him in camp for a little while, and not just pick his brain, but hang out with him and see what we can learn from him, and I think it’ll be fun.

Q: How comforting is it having the kind of bullpen you have?
A: I feel like we have the best bullpen in baseball. Again, I guess I’m a little biased. We’ve got some really, really, really talented guys down there. Anytime you have that many weapons, it helps you shorten the game on days when maybe your starter’s not doing so well, in the fourth or fifth inning you can turn things over to the bullpen and feel really good about your chances. I think as a position player where you’re on defense, when you see one of those guys running in from the pen late in the game, you feel pretty good about your chances.

Brett GardnerPaul J. Bereswill

Q: How high is up for Luis Severino?
A: We’re talking about a 23-year-old kid. We’ve heard about his name since he was 19 years old, so it seems like he’s a little older than he is for me. But I think he finished third in the Cy Young last year, he had an unbelievable season. He’s the reason that we even made the playoffs in the first place to be honest. The sky’s the limit, man. He’s got ridiculous potential. Last year he really harnessed his fastball command and was able to get ahead and put guys away and just be the dominant force on the mound that’s he’s capable of being.

Q: CC Sabathia is coming back.
A: I love it, I love it. He’s like a brother to me. We’ve been there basically the same amount of time. He’s such a great guy. He’s such a competitor, and for all the young guys we have on our team, he’s such a great role model to look up to, and great leader of the pitching staff.

Q: You’re the longest-tenured Yankee.
A: Yeah, that’s hard to believe, man. My time’s really flown by. It’s hard to believe that this is my 10th season, but I’m still managing (chuckle) to find a way to stick around and do things to help the team win. Last year was a whole lot of fun for me, maybe my most enjoyable season yet.

Q: You would love to retire a Yankee.
A: I’ve always been pretty candid about that. I would never want to play anywhere else if the choice were mine. Love the team, love the city. All the teammates that I’ve had that have come in from other places tell me how good it is and tell me how good I’ve got it, and very thankful for the opportunity that I’ve been given there.

Q: Why do you think you’ve been able to stay in this market with this franchise for so long?
A: Man, that’s a good question. That’s probably a better question suited for the guys making those decisions, but I guess for the most part, I’ve been pretty blessed to be able to stay healthy, especially recently. … Very thankful to a lot of people, my coaches that maybe have come and gone and aren’t there anymore and just played a big part in not just me getting to New York, but staying there as long as I have and molded me into the player and man that I am today.

Q: Your drive seems to be the same as it was when you first got to the big leagues.
A: I’ll be 35 this summer so I may not have (chuckle) quite as much energy as I used to when I was 20 or 22. But I try to. I think having all these young guys around over the last year or so and the way our roster has transitioned kind of brings out the best in you, and makes you push yourself a little more, and to be honest, had me feeling young again. I’m enjoying it, and I’d obviously love to continue playing as long as my body’ll let me.

Q: Will your role be any different with the logjam in the outfield?
A: I’ve talked to a few people about that, and talked about the different situations, and I’m prepared for the same exact role, and I know there’s gonna be times when maybe we’re facing a left-handed pitcher and I might not be in there that day. I don’t know if there’s gonna be a chance for me to start 150 or 155 games or maybe it’ll be a little less than that. It always has a way of playing itself out, and I’m prepared for a whole season, and looking forward to the challenge.

Q: What do you think of new manager Aaron Boone?
A: Very excited about getting to know him better, playing for him. I’ve never played for anybody else in the big leagues except Joe Girardi, so it’ll be a little different for me having a different coaching staff. That’s something that us as players, we have to just continue to stay motivated and continue to adapt to different changes, and I think we’re poised to have a really, really great season, and I know he’s excited to lead us into the season.

Q: Was a change was warranted or needed?
A: I was kind of surprised by that. I didn’t know what to expect going into the offseason. I think there’s always changes, whether it be on the active roster or within the coaching staff or whatever it maybe. Obviously it was a situation where the people that make those decisions wanted to make a change. Joe was nothing short of great to me, and I thought he did a good job with our team last year, and obviously, I thought we had a successful season as far as making it as deep as we did with the expectations that people probably placed on us going into the season. Like I said, sometimes change happens, and we’ve gotta make the most out of it. I know that our guys on our roster will be ready to play no matter who we’re playing for, and I’m excited about the upcoming season.

Q: How long did it take you to get over the way the season ended — a 4-0 ALCS Game 7 loss vs. Astros?
A: Really, really tough, man. Physically, I got through the season great, to be honest. But mentally, at the end of the season, when that roller coaster ride is over, just very draining. Very disheartening to come that close and not make it. And to see the team that we lost to obviously celebrate, it’s tough. It makes you see just how tough it is to get there, and how sometimes you maybe take for granted a little bit that OK, we’ll be back in the playoffs next year, and you know it’s not so easy anymore. Chasing the Red Sox all the way down the stretch to the last six weeks of the season and being two games back it seemed like every morning when you woke up. And then the wild card game, all those emotions, and then going down 0-2 against Cleveland, coming back and beating them, and going down 0-2 against Houston, coming back being up 3-2 … just a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Mentally, it can really drain you. It’s difficult to deal with, but it was definitely, I felt like the most enjoyable season I’ve had in my career, and we hope to get back to that place and take it a little further.



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