Steinbrenner buckling up for wild finish to season
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YORK -- Hal Steinbrenner is buckling up for what promises to be a wild finish to the division race, as his Yankees hope to hold off the Orioles and achieve their goal of winning the American League East.
That doesn't mean that the Yankees' managing general partner is necessarily enjoying the atmosphere around his club's offices while the players in uniform jockey for position.
"Look, it's tense. It's tense," Steinbrenner said on Monday outside the Yankees' clubhouse. "There's a lot we expect of them and there's a lot riding on this and a lot riding on doing well. We all feel obligated to our fans and succeeding on their behalf. It's at times stressful."
New York once held a 10-game lead in the division on July 18 and now sits dead even with the Orioles entering the final three games of the regular season, but Steinbrenner said that he does not anticipate any changes based upon the season's outcome.
"Are jobs riding on this? Not that I know of," Steinbrenner said. "Jobs are not riding on this, but that's not something I'm concerned about right now. We look at everything in the offseason, as we always do."
The Yankees opened their final regular-season series of the year on Monday, hosting the Red Sox for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. The Bombers will watch the Orioles closely as they play their final three games against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"The bottom line is, with three games left, we're in first place -- tied for first place," Steinbrenner said on Monday afternoon. "And we're going to have to get the job done."
Steinbrenner said that he had exchanged text messages with Andy Pettitte when the Yankees built that huge advantage in the division race, never anticipating that the race in the AL East would finish with such a large cushion.
"I look at the 10-game lead, it's funny," Steinbrenner said, "Andy and I were texting about two, three months ago when we had the 10-game lead and I said, 'We really need you back and we need your leadership, because I have a feeling this is going to be a lot closer,' and he agreed -- and it is.
"We built up that 10-game lead, it was a great thing. We've had our share of injuries, as other clubs did -- you know, it is what it is. It might have been this way all year long. We might have been one game up, two games down, two games up, one game down."
Steinbrenner said that the Yankees anticipated a tight race to the finish line, complimenting the work done by Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
"There is nothing surprising about this division that it's this close," Steinbrenner said. "Buck's done a great job in Baltimore; they've been on us the whole year. Toronto had their share of injuries as well, but this always has been one of the toughest divisions in baseball, always will be. I never expect to ever run away in this division."
Steinbrenner commented that David Phelps, who will start for the Yankees on Tuesday against Boston, "has been a pleasant surprise," and expressed hope that prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances will progress next season as the Yankees look to develop young pitching for the future.
Steinbrenner also mentioned Michael Pineda, who missed all of this season due to injury, as being an integral part of the club's 2013 landscape, as well as helping the Yankees reduce payroll for the '14 season.
"We've got some good young pitchers, obviously," Steinbrenner said. "You throw [Phil] Hughes and [Ivan] Nova in there as well, so we'll just have to see. That's '14. That's two years away. I do believe we have the young pitchers. The question is, do they all pan out the way we think they're going to pan out?"
Steinbrenner has commented several times that the Yankees aim to reduce payroll below the $189 million threshold for the 2014 campaign, taking advantage of incentives created by baseball's most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"I've made it clear that it's very important to me for several reasons," Steinbrenner said. "Again, you're talking about a 10 percent reduction in payroll. I don't see that as an outrageous concept. I never have."