CLEARWATER, Fla. — Joe Girardi said he was “a little worried” Thursday.
He had a tee time later in the afternoon with an important playing partner — Phillies owner John Middleton.
“I don’t know about the golf game I’m going to play today,” Girardi said with a chuckle.
Perhaps he would have had more time to prepare the past two years. The tradeoff, however, is just fine with him.
Girardi is back where he wants to be: tracing the backfields of a spring training complex, watching bullpen sessions and managing a baseball team, more than two years after getting fired by the Yankees.
“From the day that I signed, I’ve loved it,” the new Phillies manager said. “I’ve loved putting the uniform back on, I’ve loved being in the clubhouse and talking to players and creating fun situations and seeing people laugh and seeing people have success and watching young players do their thing and have success. So these first two days have been magnificent.
“Now saying that, there are still things, like I don’t know how to get certain places and I get lost when I’m going places. But this has been fabulous.”
The 55-year-old Girardi was hired in October to replace Gabe Kapler and help get the Phillies back to the playoffs, which they have not reached since 2011. His experience and success were a major selling point. He managed in the postseason in six of his 10 seasons with the Yankees, including winning the World Series in 2009 — against the Phillies.
The Mets interviewed Girardi for their managerial opening — their first one of the offseason, that is — but they did not see him as the right fit, sources told The Post’s Mike Puma. There were questions about whether he would mesh with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
Instead, Girardi landed in Philadelphia and his new GM, Matt Klentak, offered rave reviews two days into spring training.
“The thing that jumps out to me more than anything about Joe is just how comfortable he is,” Klentak said Thursday. “Whether he’s talking to players in a morning meeting, walking through the clubhouse [or] walking around the fields in the back, he looks like a guy that’s done this for 10 years in a big market. He knows what he’s doing. He’s very comfortable. He’s very confident. He works very well with the other coaches.”
That includes Rob Thomson, who was on Girardi’s staff for all 10 seasons in The Bronx, four of them as bench coach. Thomson is now entering his third season as the Phillies’ bench coach, reunited with his former boss.
“I think he’s really excited being here,” Thomson said. “He’s had a couple years off, so he’s refreshed. It’s great for him to be back in the game because he’s a great manager and a great baseball man. He deserves to be back.”
Girardi’s track record has not been lost on his new clubhouse.
“I love Joe,” former Met Zack Wheeler said. “I’m sure he had tons of opportunities to go elsewhere. I’m sure anybody would have taken him. But the Phillies took him and that’s one of the reasons I signed here. I’d heard nothing but good things about Joe. Obviously his resume backs up his personality. Both of those combined, you really can’t beat it.”
Girardi has also come back to the game with a different perspective after sitting at home the past two seasons, aside from some analyst work for Fox Sports and MLB Network.
“You really realize how much you miss it,” Girardi said. “It does give you a different perspective and as you get older, your perspective in life changes a little bit too. So I’m cherishing every minute of this. I know we’re going to have good days and bad days. But the bad days are teaching tools. I’m really fortunate.”