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Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner blames players for slow start

NEW YORK --Yankeesowner Hal Steinbrenner has backed manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff and has blamed players for theteam's slow start.

With New York last in the AL East at 16-22 before its 4-2 winover Arizona on Wednesday, Steinbrenner singled out Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino for criticism.

"The first five weeks were disappointing, frustrating, particularly looking at the offense," said Steinbrenner, speaking Wednesday outside Major League Baseball's offices. "Clearly not living up to their potential.

"When you look at a guy like Mark Teixeira, clearly, he's not playing to his potential with the bat."

Steinbrenner said Pineda's decline is "concerning."

"All these strikeouts, and yet he's given up these runs," Steinbrenner said. "Whatever technically is wrong with the delivery, Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach] is going to work on, but the rest is up to Pineda to figure out. He's a professional, and that's what we expect from him, and that's what his teammates expect from him."

As for Severino, Steinbrenner said the pitcher has "a confidence issue" and has "to learn how to push through that downturn."

Not all players felt Steinbrenner's wrath. He praised Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks, along with Girardi, Rothschild and general manager Brian Cashman.

"The coaches are doing a good job," Steinbrenner said. "These are professional athletes. They're the best baseball players in the world, and sooner or later it comes down to them, on the inside, to push through whatever it is they're going through and to persevere."

Far less tempestuous than his father, George, who goaded the team from his purchase in 1973 until nearly the time of his death in 2010, Hal Steinbrenner discussed the Yankees analytically, but with hope.

"Needless to say, the first five weeks were disappointing, frustrating, particularly looking at the offense," he said. "Clearly not living up to their potential."

Teixeira, a three-time All-Star first baseman, finished Wednesday night with a .203 average and 11 RBIs after going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against the Diamondbacks. Headley didn't have an extra-base hit until May 12. After going 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA as a rookie, Severino is 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA and is on the disabled list with a triceps injury. Pineda is 1-5 with a 6.60 ERA, 102nd among 104 qualifying pitchers in the major leagues.

"I don't think it's a flaw in the way the team is put together," Steinbrenner said. "I think the team we have this year is better than the team we had last year."

The slumping Teixeira responded to Steinbrenner's assertion, readily acknowledging that he needs to play better.

"I don't blame him," Teixeira said. "I've been terrible the last month. I've been around long enough to know that you're going to get singled out when you're not producing, especially the type of career that I've had. I've always been someone that's been able to carry teams during tough streaks. We've been in a tough stretch the whole season. I'm the kind of player that can carry a team for a while. I just haven't done it yet.''

Pineda echoed this sentiment, telling reporters that he's not bothered by the critical assessment from the New York owner.

"I know I can be better, and that's why I'm telling you guys that I need to keep working hard to improve," Pineda said. "I can be better. I know it."

Speaking in Phoenix before the Yankees played Arizona, Girardi also understood Steinbrenner's sentiment.

"If I was the owner, I'd be frustrated, too,'' the manager said.

Now 46, with his hair starting to gray near the temples, Steinbrenner put off questions about what he would do if the Yankees are far from contention as the Aug. 1 deadline approaches for trades without waivers. After missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in two decades, New York returned to the postseason in October, only to lose to theHouston Astrosin the AL wild-card game.

For their first 22 home games this season, the Yankees averaged 38,587 fans, which appears on track to surpass last season's average of 39,992, given the larger crowds that usually show up when school is out.

"Season tickets are slightly up, which is the first time in four or five years that that's been the case," Steinbrenner said. "I don't know if it's making the playoffs one game or not. I don't know if it's some of the young players, Hicks, Castro, [Aroldis] Chapman, some of the guys we brought on. I don't know. But the fans have been excited."

He talked about the need for the Yankees to always have veteran stars, even as they add younger players. He looked ahead to prospects such as first baseman Greg Bird and pitcher James Kaprielian, who are both hurt, and shortstop Jorge Mateo. Steinbrenner said another run of consecutive World Series titles might be more difficult with the parity caused by revenue sharing and the luxury tax, but he thinks it still is possible.

"Sooner or later it comes down to ... ," he said, stopping to tap his hand over his heart three times.

In a text message to ESPN.com on Wednesday, Cashman said: "We just need to play better baseball, and baseball like we are capable of playing.''

New York won six World Series titles while George Steinbrenner was in charge. Hal Steinbrenner, whose only title since taking over came in 2009, said he knows the standard set by his father.

"If my name wasn't Steinbrenner, I wouldn't be here," he said. "I don't look at this as something I deserve. I've been given this. It's a gift. I respect it, and I enjoy it."

Information from ESPN's Wallace Matthews and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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