Yankees' 2017 campaign not just 'Baby' talk

Young Bombers get attention, but veterans will be leaned on for big contributions

Yankees' 2017 campaign not just 'Baby' talk

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Baby Bombers have been the focus leading into this season, and justifiably so. When the Yankees look at a lineup populated by Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, they dream about a future where deep postseason runs are again the norm in The Bronx.

For the next six months, however, manager Joe Girardi believes that the key to competitive play rests heavily upon the shoulders of the more experienced players in the lineup, mentioning Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Matt Holliday in particular.

"I've said all along that it's important the veterans do their job so all of this doesn't fall on the young players," Girardi said. "I don't think that's fair. You start looking at the veteran hitters we have … they have to do their job. And if they do their job, this offense is going to be very good."

Headley's single to left

Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field brought mixed results as the Yankees fielded their youngest Opening Day roster since 1992. Judge logged the Yanks' first RBI of the year, while Bird and Sanchez combined to go 0-for-9 in their Opening Day debuts. Gardner, Ellsbury and Holliday combined to go 1-for-11.

"I think everybody needs to do their job, and I think that's how everybody feels," said Headley, who contributed three hits against the shift. "As a veteran, I know the other guys want to carry their weight and take some pressure off these young guys. But make no mistake, those guys are going to be a big part of our lineup. They're going to want to do their job, too."

Headley's bunt single

Holliday said that his first game as a Yankee "wasn't ideal," but he expressed confidence in the group's potential. He was asked if, given the Yankees' youth, it was more important to get the season off to a good start.

"Maybe, but I think we have enough veteran players that it's not a must," Holliday said. "It doesn't matter who you are -- young, old -- it's always good to get off to a good start and get some confidence and momentum going."

That progress was difficult to make a year ago, when they banked heavily on veterans Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira -- all now former Yanks. The resulting 680 runs scored ranked 12th among the 15 American League clubs, inviting a midseason shakeup.

"I've got to do my job; I've got to be better than I was last year," Gardner said. "Jacoby, Chase, Starlin -- yeah, we've got to do our jobs. But it's up to everybody collectively as a group -- pitchers, catchers, hitters, defense."

Girardi believes that the new-look order -- highlighted by Ellsbury in the No. 5 spot, a place where he had never started a game before Sunday -- has more athleticism and can present new challenges for opponents, especially when shortstop Didi Gregorius is expected to return to the mix next month.

"I think we're going to have overall more team speed. We're going to go first to third more," Girardi said. "We're going to score on doubles more often from first. I think the middle of our order is young and strong for the most part. … I think that's what we're excited about here."

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.