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Steinbrenner say Yankees have a championship-caliber team

March 26, 2019
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New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, right, talks with left fielder Giancarlo Stanton, left, during batting practice before an exhibition baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Monday, March 25, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner thinks New York has a championship-caliber team as it heads into Thursday’s opener against Baltimore.

“We’re excited,” Steinbrenner said Tuesday after watching CC Sabathia pitch in a minor league game. “We’re as good as anybody. The team is going to do everything they can to win this thing. I believe they’re going to play up to their potential.”

Steinbrenner thinks the Yankees have enough depth to overcome injuries to Sabathia, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Jordan Montgomery.

“I’d like to be more healthy, but the good news is none of the injuries are significant and the guys are going to be back,” Steinbrenner said.

New York went 100-62 last season for its best record since 2009, yet finished eight games back of the AL East champion Boston Red Sox, who won the World Series for the fourth time in 15 seasons.

Last year’s Yankees, led by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton set a major league record with 267 homers, three more than the 1997 Seattle Mariners.

The Yankees focused on pitching during the offseason, adding Adam Ottavino and James Paxton, and re-signing Sabathia, Zack Britton, and J.A. Happ.

Youngsters Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga will fill two spots in the rotation in the opening weeks.

“Our pitching from top to bottom is still very good,” Steinbrenner said of Yankees’ minor league system. “Charleston may have the best rotation of all. We’re strong.”

Sabathia made his second start since undergoing a heart procedure in December. He allowed one run, two hits and struck out three over three innings in a Triple-A game against Philadelphia minor leaguers. He also made a nice defensive play, coming forward off the mound to field a grounder and then throwing the batter out at first base.

“I felt great,” Sabathia said after throwing 28 of 40 pitches for strikes. “Just try to build up the next start.”

Sabathia, scheduled to pitch again on Monday, will remain in Florida to work out and will not be at Yankee Stadium for Thursday’s opener. He plans to retire after the season.

“Opening day is not that special, I’d rather be there for the World Series,” a smiling Sabathia said.

When asked if he was going to watch the opener on TV, Sabathia jokingly said he had to see first if he had “some Netflix shows” to watch.

The 38-year old, who is expected to miss his first two of three regular-season starts, will be on the opening day roster while serving a five-game suspension for hitting the Tampa Bay Rays’ Jesus Sucre with a pitch in his final outing last season.

NOTES: German pitched in a Double-A game. ... OF Clint Frazier, coming back from a concussion-wrecked season, played center field in the Triple-A game. Hicks, the starting center fielder, will begin the season on the injured list with a lower back ailment.

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