Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner credits clubhouse technology for improved health, fast start

Wed, May 22, 2024
MLB News (AP)

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner credits clubhouse technology for improved health, fast start

NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner credits new clubhouse technology with helping New York get off to an AL-best 33-17 start, is pleased Juan Soto has bonded with teammates and fans, and is confident his club can return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

"Our injuries have been below average as opposed to way above average, which we've had at least two of the last five years," Steinbrenner said Wednesday at the Major League Baseball owners' meetings. "And it makes a difference. We did a lot in the clubhouse, a lot of new technology: red light therapy, infrared saunas, hyperbaric chambers, I guess. Stuff that's right over my head. But these players, they really, really like it. Maybe in some way, shape or form all that new technology is helping with the injury situation."

New York began Tuesday with the second-best record in the major leagues, trailing only Philadelphia (35-14). The only major injuries have been to ace Gerrit Cole, who could return in late June from an elbow injury; third baseman DJ LeMahieu, expected back next week from a broken right foot; and centerfielder Jasson Dominguez, who is working his way into shape following Tommy John surgery in September.

Soto, a three-time All-Star acquired from San Diego in December, is hitting .309 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs.

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"I had no doubt Juan Soto would perform in New York. The market, the pressure, none of that was going to be a problem. How would he interact with our fans, how would he interact with you guys, how would he interact with the teammates were the three questions I had," Steinbrenner told reporters. "And it's been great, great, great on those three."

New York is averaging 38,610 fans, fourth in the majors, heading into the three highest attendance months of the season. Soto has become a fan favorite.

"There's no doubt a lot of people are buying his jersey," Steinbrenner said. "As far as ticket sales, beginning of the season we were down, season tickets. Individual games are up. But it's hard to tell whether it's because of him or a combination of him and winning."

Steinbrenner told the Yankees' YES Network last week he was open to in-season contract negotiations with Soto, who said he was willing to listen. Soto can become a free agent after the World Series.

"I just don't have any more to add to that right now," Steinbrenner said. "I'm not going to allow this to be a weekly story because I don't want the distraction."

The Yankees started the season with a $303 million payroll, just $3 million behind the major league-high Mets.

"Payrolls at levels we're at right now are simply not sustainable for us financially," Steinbrenner said. "It wouldn't be sustainable for the vast majority of owners given the luxury tax that we have to pay. But we've got a considerable amount of money coming off. We didn't have a whole lot of money come off last offseason."

Yankees captain Aaron Judge started slowly, hitting .180 with three homers and 11 RBIs through April 23, but batted .352 with 10 homers and 21 RBIs over his next 26 games.

"He missed a chunk of spring training," Steinbrenner said. "I think that's what we were seeing that first month. But he's clearly seeing the ball just fine right now. When he starts ramping it up, just whether it's coincidence or not, it seems like other guys start ramping it up."

Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .250 with 11 homers and 26 RBIs in 43 games, a rebound from an injury-decimated 2023.

"He lost, what, 27 pounds coming into spring training. That's phenomenal," Steinbrenner said. "And that's just less weight on his legs, knees and everything else. And I think that's made a difference."

Despite the absence of Cole, the Yankees lead the major leagues with a 2.92 ERA.

"The biggest pleasant surprise has been the pitching, the starting rotation," Steinbrenner said. "We came in with concerns, right? What (Carlos) Rodon do we get? Can Nestor (Cortes) stay healthy? Luis Gil. And they're the reason we're at where we're at because the offense did struggle for a good month there."

Gil, a 23-year-old rookie right-hander, is 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA as Cole's replacement.

"Had we gone out and signed one of the numerous free agents - we look at everything, as you know - Luis Gil would have never got a chance in all likelihood," Steinbrenner said.

New York faded from contention last summer in what general manager Brian Cashman termed a disaster. Steinbrenner headed into this season with high hopes.

"I felt we had a championship-caliber team without a doubt," Steinbrenner said. "You got to get to the playoffs. Once you get to the playoffs, as we know it is, as Cash would say, a bit of a crapshoot."

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