On Monday night, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner appeared on the YES Network’s “Hot Stove” to answer a few questions on what he’d like to see from the club moving forward.
Steinbrenner didn’t waste any time when broached on the topic of the young behemoth known to Yankees fans as Aaron Judge. “He’s got some work to do — he knows that,” Steinbrenner said of Judge, who struggled mightily after being called up to the Majors in early August.
“We’re going to figure out exactly what we think is wrong. My expectations are he’s going to be my starting right fielder this year. That’s a big deal and a big opportunity. I know he’s going to make the most of it.”
In no uncertain terms, George’s son is willing to stick his neck out for the 24-year-old talented, albeit flawed right fielder, but that good favor won’t last long if Judge’s stats don’t improve from a year ago (.179 BA with 42 strikeouts in 95 at-bats).
Steinbrenner next spoke about the excitement that the Baby Bombers brought to the Yankees in August and early September before coming back down to Earth down the stretch. “Tough year,” Steinbrenner said. “Always disappointing when we don’t make the playoffs — that’s unacceptable quite frankly, the way we view the world. But there was a lot of hope the last two months — a lot of hope for the future, a lot of excitement.”
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With a lack of intriguing options via free agency to fill a slot or two in the starting rotation, Steinbrenner said, “There’s going to be competition in the starting rotation, we know that. We’ve got [Adam] Warren, we’ve got [Chad] Green, [Luis] Cessa, [Luis] Severino, [Bryan] Mitchell. We’ve got good options for two spots. That’s going to be pretty fun to watch, I think.”
As for the bullpen, led by 28-year-old Dellin Betances who has great “stuff” but has yet to prove he’s cut out for the closer’s role, Steinbrenner was non-committal about who will be pitching the 9th inning in 2017.
“Health-wise, I’m not worried at all — mentally-wise, he’s as tough as they come,” Steinbrenner said. “I think he could be the closer — that doesn’t mean we’re not going to strengthen the bullpen in one way or another. We’ll see where he fits in, where he best ends up. We’re just starting that process, but particularly with some of the young starters we have, I think it behooves us to strengthen that bullpen and try to shorten the game a little bit.”
To me, it sounds like Steinbrenner is doing all he can to keep a certain level of optimism about this set of Yankees as he and the organization enter the unchartered waters of having a roster comprised of mostly unknowns.
Steinbrenner is smart to relay positive reinforcement to his young players, while also setting the record straight that he won’t shy away from making changes if the need arises. It’s all about motivating what you already have in-house while keeping your options open — that’s how the Chicago Cubs got to where they are today.