NEW YORK -- Hal Steinbrenner said that it was "emotional" to watch Aaron Judge homer in his first Major League plate appearance, and the Yankees' managing general partner is counting on the 24-year-old slugger to grab hold of the starting right-field job next spring.
Speaking in the first part of a two-part interview with the YES Network, Steinbrenner said that Judge will be coming into the new season with something to prove after hitting .179 (15-for-84) with 42 strikeouts in his first 27 Major League games.
"He's got some work to do. He knows that," Steinbrenner said. "We're going to figure out exactly what we think is wrong. My expectations are he's going to be my starting right fielder this year. That's a big deal and a big opportunity. I know he's going to make the most of it."
Steinbrenner said that his hopes for the future were buoyed on the afternoon of Aug. 13, when Tyler Austin and Judge became the first pair of teammates in MLB history to homer in their first at-bats in the same game, going back-to-back against the Rays' Matt Andriese.
"It was emotional, there's no doubt about it," Steinbrenner said. "I was there. These are guys we've been following for years. We keep talking about them and trying to get the fans to learn about them. This has been a three- or four-year deal.
"To see both of them come up in their very first game, on the big stage, in a game that matters, it was phenomenal. I don't easily get emotional -- most people know that about me -- but that was a good one."
While he was thrilled by the late-season surge, particularly the emergence of catcher Gary Sanchez, Steinbrenner said that it was "unacceptable, quite frankly," for the Yanks (84-78) to miss the postseason, the third time in the past four years that they have done so.
"But there was a lot of hope the last two months, a lot of hope for the future, a lot of excitement," Steinbrenner said. "The last two months were certainly better than the first four. … The fact that they came up not as September callups, they came up in a real pennant race where things were tight and close the entire time.
"It was the real deal. You can't have a better test than that. The pressure was on and they responded."
While the Yankees are known to have interest in a reunion with free-agent closer Aroldis Chapman, Steinbrenner said that he believes Dellin Betances would be capable of handling the closer role.
"Health-wise, I'm not worried at all, and mentally-wise, he's as tough as they come," Steinbrenner said. "Yes, I think he can be the closer. That doesn't mean we're not going to strengthen the bullpen in one way or another, we'll see where he fits in, where he best ends up.
"We're just starting that whole process. Particularly with some of the young starters we have, I think it behooves us to strengthen that bullpen and try to shorten the game a little bit."
Steinbrenner predicts there will be a healthy amount of competition in camp, particularly given that there are just three current locks for the rotation in Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.
"There's going to be competition in the starting rotation, we know that," Steinbrenner said. 'We've got [Adam] Warren, we've got [Chad] Green, [Luis] Cessa, [Luis] Severino, [Bryan] Mitchell. We've got good options for two spots, right? That's going to be pretty fun to watch. Yes, I think we've got young kids that are going to be there.
"[Rob] Refsnyder, he'll be competing for a job. Tyler Austin [will as well]. It's just great to be able to witness that, great to be in that situation, to have that kind of talent competing for one of 25 spots."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.