Yan­kees fig­ure to keep get­ting younger

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

There were two cel­e­bra­tions at Yan­kee Sta­dium dur­ing the sea­son’s fi­nal week — both in the vis­i­tors’ club­house.

There were two cel­e­bra­tions at Yan­kee Sta­dium dur­ing the sea­son’s fi­nal week — both in the vis­i­tors’ club­house.

This is not what New York and its fans are ac­cus­tomed to.

The Yan­kees like to spend the sea­son won­der­ing how deep they will go in the post­sea­son, not whether they will reach it.

“The goal here is not to get into the play­offs. The goal is to win World Se­ries,” man­ager Joe Gi­rardi said be­fore Sun­day’s sea­son fi­nale, when the oval home club­house al­ready was filled with boxes to be shipped to play­ers’ homes.

New York has not won a post­sea­son game since Derek Jeter broke his an­kle in the 2012 AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries opener. The Yan­kees have failed to reach the play­offs in three of the last four sea­sons.

Gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man fi­nally per­suaded owner Hal Steinbrenner in late July to start jet­ti­son­ing vet­er­ans and ini­ti­ate a youth move­ment. Aroldis Chap­man, An­drew Miller, Car­los Bel­tran and Ivan Nova were traded for prospects, and Alex Ro­driguez was re­leased.

“As an or­ga­ni­za­tion, we thought it was in our best in­ter­est to make trades and try to get back to the World Se­ries-cal­iber type of team that we know that is go­ing to take some work,” Gi­rardi said.

Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez came up from the mi­nors on Aug. 3 and fin­ished with a .299 bat­ting av­er­age, 20 homers and 42 RBIs in 53 games. Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin ar­rived 10 days later and made an in­stant im­pact — home­r­ing backto-back in their first ma­jor league at-bats.

“I love the guys that we have here,” said out­fielder Brett Gard­ner, at 33 one of the se­nior Yan­kees. “I love a

lot of the young play­ers we saw that came up over the course of the sea­son. I’m a pretty big Gary Sanchez fan. So I think we’ve got a lot of young guys that are ready to con­trib­ute at this level.”

Gi­rardi di­rected a blunt mes­sage to the young play­ers on the fi­nal Fri­day of the sea­son.

“There’s a lot of work to do to get to where we want and there’s younger kids knock­ing on older play­ers’ doors, and for the younger kids that have had some suc­cess, the hard part is not get­ting here, the hard part is stick­ing,” he re­called telling them. “As peo­ple ad­just to you, you have to make ad­just­ments as a ballplayer. So I think next year’s camp could be ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive and you need to be ready.”

WHAT WENT WRONG?

New York scored 680 runs, more than only Kansas City, Oak­land and Tampa Bay among AL teams, and was shut out an AL-high 13 times. The in­abil­ity to play small ball and move run­ners was most

ev­i­dent on the road, where the Yan­kees went 36-45. Home runs, es­pe­cially to right field, seemed to com­pen­sate at Yan­kee Sta­dium, where they went 48-33.

WHO’S BACK?

Greg Bird missed the en­tire sea­son fol­low­ing shoul­der surgery and is the fa­vorite to start at first base next year; Gi­rardi says Austin will be given a chance to win the job dur­ing spring train­ing. Bryan Mitchell fig­ures to com­pete for a ro­ta­tion spot af­ter miss­ing most of the sea­son fol­low­ing a toe in­jury late in spring train­ing. He had a 3.24 ERA in five Septem­ber ap­pear­ances. Luis Cessa and Chad Green also could com­pete for spots in a ro­ta­tion that in­cludes Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sa­bathia and Michael Pineda.

WHO’S GONE?

New York prob­a­bly won’t of­fer a con­tract to Nathan Eo­valdi, al­low­ing him to be­come a free agent af­ter the right-han­der had Tommy John surgery for the sec­ond time. Re­lief pitch­ers Bran­den Pin­der, Ja­cob Lind­gren and Nick Rum­be­low

also will not be avail­able for most or all of next sea­son fol­low­ing el­bow lig­a­ment re­place­ments.

WHERE DOES LUIS SEV­ERINO GO?

The 22-year-old righthander fol­lowed a strong de­but in 2015 with an aw­ful 2016, and he could be­come the next Joba Cham­ber­lain or Phil Hughes, a pitcher the Yan­kees are uncertain about how to use. Should Sev­erino start or come out of the bullpen?

WHO COULD COME UP NEXT YEAR?

New York’s farm sys­tem has trans­formed from one of the worst to one of the best. Out­fielder Clint Fra­zier, short­stop Gley­ber Tor­res and left-han­der Jus­tus Sh­effield were ac­quired in the sum­mer trades and joined a mi­nor league sys­tem that al­ready in­cluded touted in­fielder Jorge Ma­teo and out­fielder Blake Rutherford. With an 84-78 record, three wins fewer than last year, the Yan­kees will draft 17th in the first round next June.

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