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Joe Girardi's confidence helping Yankees rookies seize their opportunity

05/17/2013 11:28 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Preston Claiborne takes the ball from another youngster Austin Romine during Friday's win.(AP)
On Thursday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi extolled the virtues of veterans like Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, and Lyle Overbay, players who were brought in to replace some big-ticket players that started the year on the disabled list.

One day later, the skipper flipped the script, adding in some praise for some of the rookies who have also stepped up to keep the Yankees in first place through the first quarter of the season.

"I believe these guys will get the job done. Every superstar was a young player at one time, and when they came up they may have done some good things, but you really didn't know how good they're going to be until they get there," Girardi said. "We've had some young kids that I believe have a chance to be really good players and come up and do some special things."

Friday's starting lineup contained both David Adams and Austin Romine, who began 2013 in Triple-A but are now the third (and technically, in Adams' case, the fourth) men to man their positions as the nominal starter this year.

Meanwhile, on the mound, Preston Claiborne has pitched eight scoreless innings so far, and Vidal Nuno, who shut out Cleveland in a spot start on Monday, is on his way back from Triple-A to replace the now-disabled Andy Pettitte in the rotation.

Romine has been in the Majors before, but when you add Brett Marshall and Corban Joseph to Adams, Claiborne, and Nuno, this is the first time since 1995 that the Yankees have had five rookies make their Major League debuts in the season's first 40 games - but somehow, someway, they've stepped in like the rest and contributed, and Girardi said that he always has faith in young players, even if they might not share that sentiment.

"I believe (they can get the job done), and I think the tough part is for them to believe it all the time; you're ups and downs as kids, and sometimes it makes you question if you can do it consistently at this level, even if you've done it at the lower levels and passed those tests," Girardi said. "Our job is to help them and tell them yes you can do this up here, but there's going to be ups and downs just like everywhere else."

General Manager Brian Cashman admitted this year has been "a lot of juggling" with all the roster flux, but so far, he and his skipper have managed to keep all of their balls in the air, no matter when they've been thrown in.

"Thankfully, we're able to run out some people that we feel can get the job done. We're finding different guys to keep plugging holes," Cashman said. "So far we've been up to the challenge, and I know whoever steps in is anxious to get the opportunity."

On Friday, those rookies played big roles in the win, as Adams and Romine were a combined 4-for-7 with an RBI and three runs scored, and Claiborne got into and out of a ninth-inning jam (with the help of a nice catch by Romine) to preserve the shutout.

"That's what you want these kids to do, when you think about the runs we got, it was between seven and nine that did a lot of the damage," Girardi said. "And Claiborne…we were impressed with him in Spring Training, and we left thinking he could help us at some point this year, and he's doing that right now; you never know how a guy is going to act when he gets here, but he's the same guy he was in Spring Training, and he's probably gaining confidence every day."

Not every day will be this successful for anyone, but Girardi said he has reminded his youngsters to stay calm and know that the best thing they can do is do the best they can.

"I think they understand what's in front of them, and I don't want to make too much of it," Girardi said after the game. "I've told them just to go out and play and be who you are, and I don't want them to think that this is going to be their only opportunity. I think they're very talented kids, and I think they'll get plenty of opportunity."

"We're just excited to be here and get a chance and contribute," Romine said to that, "and it's exciting because we're all getting a chance and taking advantage of it."

Doing just that with it with a handful of guys that have come up through the system together is extra helpful for a pitcher like Claiborne, who finished Friday's game throwing to a catcher he has been with pretty much all year in Romine.

"Everybody's been great up here, and playing with Austin and having a history with him definitely makes me feel more comfortable," Claiborne said. "It's a great experience for all of us, and I'm happy to have the chance to help the team."

As Girardi alluded to, this may be a short-term opportunity for some of the rookies, but it surely won't be their only one, and that confidence from the skipper - and the Yankees' recent trend of promotion from within - can only help a young player feel comfortable even on their worst days.

"I feel like it's a cycle that happens every so often; when Jeter and those guys came up, I feel like they knew they were the guys," Adams said. "I'm coming in and trying to do my part to take some pressure off the big guys, and when they get back, I'm sure they'll step right in and be ready to go."

And, as Romine concluded, as important as knowing that role is, just as important is seizing the day and making an impression for later.

"We definitely have a chance now; we all see it, and we're ready to go out and show what we can do."

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