TAMPA, Fla. -- Camp (Joe) Girardi is more difficult than Camp (Joe) Torre in the early going this spring which, truth be told, was to be expected.
Everybody knows that Girardi was almost maniacal in cracking the whip on his young Florida Marlins two years ago.
But the Yankees aren't simply running more this spring than last for that reason alone.
No, it was in the early going last season, you might recall, that the Yankees were struck by an extraordinary number of hamstring injuries. Pitchers Phil Hughes, Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang and outfielder Hideki Matsui all landed on the disabled list with various degrees of hamstring pulls in the first weeks of 2007, leading to the firing of then-strength coach Marty Miller ... and, eventually, leading to a more regimented physical conditioning program this spring for the Yanks.
Mussina told me Monday morning that some of the descriptions of how much the Yankees are running so far are a bit over-dramatized. The club ran this much under Torre's direction in some springs, Mussina said. But the conditioning requirements eased off last spring, Mussina acknowledged, and these Yankees are running far more than they did last spring.
"People forget we ran before last year," Mussina says. "We didn't run as much last year, and it hurt us."
Understand, no games have been played yet -- Grapefruit League or regular season -- and these are just sketchy first impressions but, so far, the reaction to Girardi has been positive.
Especially from one of the men whose opinion counts the most.
"I love what he does," Hank Steinbrenner, Yankees senior vice-president, was saying around lunchtime Monday at the Yankees' Legends Field complex. "I love what he's doing. I really do. He's got a rare combination of things.
"They like him and respect him, I think, and there's even a little fear."
Steinbrenner acknowledged the hard work is key after the way all those hamstrings blew up early last year.
"It's especially important," he says. "All of that stretching and running ... that's not going to happen again. If it does, it'll be a fluke."
The early running isn't necessarily unique to the Yankees. Reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who played with five other organizations before signing with the Yankees as a free agent this offseason, said he ran this much with the Rockies last spring and "we probably ran more in Minnesota."
"It ain't that hard," Hawkins says. "The hard thing is the heat and humidity. It's been humid down here. I was running a month ago at home (in Texas), inside, 65 degrees, and it was no problem. Here, the heat takes its toll on your body."
Likes: Morgan Ensberg, in Yankees camp as a candidate to play first base, is intelligent, personable and kooky. And one more reason why I love the guy came Monday in the Yankees' clubhouse, when, after catching up with each other for several minutes, he offered this as a farewell when we parted: "Write well this spring. Have good syntax." ... Pretty dull year for the Oscars. No Country for Old Men was a reasonably good movie, but not THAT good. Daniel Day-Lewis was outstanding in There Will Be Blood, but the ending was suspect. Juno was enjoyable, but nomination for best picture? ... David Michaelis' biography of Charles M. Schultz, who wrote the comic strip Peanuts for all those years.
Dislikes: Heading toward the Sunshine Skyway on my way toward Tampa the other night, I sat behind a car for a full five minutes at the toll booth as the driver tried to sort out some sort of problem. What was the problem? "She didn't have any money," the toll booth person told me when I finally was able to go. Great. No money, and the woman's driving a Lexus. "Sir, you work here for one day, you'd be amazed by what you'd see," the gentleman taking my $1 said ... and I believe him.
Sunblock day? Yep, still cookin'. Sunny, humid and in the 80s.
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"And in the streets the children screamed
"The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
"But not a word was spoken
"The church bells all were broken
"And the three men I admire most
"The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
"They caught the last train for the coast
"The day the music died
-- Don McLean, American Pie