TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Hank Steinbrenner expects his struggling New York Yankees to focus and turn around their season.
``They've got to play smarter and harder,'' he said Wednesday. ``The injuries - when you're missing Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, that makes it tough. The injuries make a huge difference. At the same time, you've got to get it done. We still have plenty of good hitters. We need to get the job done.''
New York is 19-21, fourth in the AL East following a pair of losses to Tampa Bay, the surprise AL East leader.
``No question, the Rays are a hungry team,'' said Steinbrenner, the Yankees' co-chairman. ``That's what our team has to get back.''
When asked if it was time for the players to earn their money, Steinbrenner said ``Yes.''
Following the four-game series against the Rays, the Yankees host the New York Mets in a three-game series starting Friday. Two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, traded to the Mets after the Yankees cut off talks with the Minnesota Twins, is slated to pitch the Subway Series opener Friday. Santana is 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA.
``To me, it's not any added significance because Santana is pitching. We want to win, it's that simple,'' Steinbrenner said. ``We're both kind of struggling. We just need to win. They just need to win. We just need to keep putting wins in the win column. We've got to start racking up some runs.''
Steinbrenner will likely watch Friday's game on TV in Florida, but could be at Yankee Stadium over the weekend.
``I think there is a very good chance I might go up there,'' he said.
Steinbrenner, in his first season overseeing the team;s baseball operations, expects the Yankees to put together a hot streak, which has become a trademark in recent years.
``We're going to do everything we can turn to it around this year,'' Steinbrenner said. ``I guarantee we'll get his thing straight next year.''
Rodriguez hasn't played since April 28 because of a strained right quadriceps and hopes to return Tuesday. Posada hasn't been able to catch for most of the season because of a right shoulder injury and won't be back until June at the earliest. Both took batting practice at the Yankees' minor league complex Wednesday.
``There's no question, when we get 100 percent healthy, we'll start hitting,'' Steinbrenner said. ``The players, the hand they were dealt, that makes it tougher for the other hitters.''
Rodriguez said it's tough not being able to contribute to the Yankees' offense, which has been sluggish.
``It's frustrating,'' Rodriguez said. ``It's hard to watch. All I can do is cheer. I have all the confidence in the world that we're going to start scoring some runs.''
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