The Yankees hit the field at Yankee Stadium on Thursday to get a workout in before heading into the ALCS. But they don't know exactly who they're going to be facing in that series just yet.
The Astros and Rays will play their ALDS Game 5 tonight in Houston to determine who moves on and who goes home. And based off who does come away with the victory in that game could go into how manager Aaron Boone and the Yankees create their new 25-man roster for the ALCS.
"It could factor in a little bit, definitely," Boone told the media on Thursday. "There could be a decision based on the opponent for a spot or two."
CC Sabathia and Aaron Hicks are among the top players vying for a spot on this Championship roster. Both appear to be healthy and Boone reiterated again on Thursday that they will be in consideration.
"He's out there stretching now and will play catch," he said about Sabathia. "Just talking to him when he came in, he said he felt good. So far, encouraging.
"I think completing the bounce back today and that he is sound, we'll have some conversations about it and try and make a decision one way or another."
As for Hicks, the Yankees are considering every option regarding the outfielder. He seems healthy, but after missing so many games and these next few obviously meaning so much, would the Yanks want to throw him right back in the mix? That's what Boone is thinking about as we speak.
"Combo of both of those and coupled with our roster," Boone said when asked about his health and effectiveness if he plays. "The good thing is he's put himself in this position to make it a decision. We'll have some tough decisions over the next 24 hours..."
Though tough, Boone isn't afraid to make them because he believes his team understands where he's coming from when he does. Sabathia is a great example after being held off the ALDS roster. He didn't appear healthy enough for Boone, and he made that tough call even knowing Sabathia obviously wants to contribute in his final MLB season.
Boone's loyalty and stout communication with his players helps, at least in his mind, make those tough calls with who gets a spot and who doesn't.
"You love your players and you're in it with him and I think I'm as loyal as it comes," he said. "And I think when you communicate with people and have a relationship with people, it makes difficult decisions - I don't know about any easier -- but I think maybe everyone understands it and at least respects it. Hopefully we have that with this group and I believe we do."
Here's what else to take away from Boone's Thursday presser...
ON HOW THE YANKS HAVE MATURED AFTER LAST YEAR
After falling to the Red Sox in the ALDS last season, the Yankees definitely had a sour taste in their mouths. That is something they carried into this season and had in the back of their heads, as they went on to win the AL East and get to where they are now.
Boone has loved what he's seen comparing his team from last season to now, and one very important factor sticks out to him in how they have matured.
"Perhaps the biggest thing: hunger," he said. "That's one word I've used to describe these guys a lot this year. I feel like they're really hungry and they've shown that in the most normal of days during the year and continue to show that when the stakes are really high obviously."
ON BOONE'S BULLPEN USAGE
Again looking at last year's postseason, Boone was criticized heavily for relying on his starters a little longer than some thought he should have. Looking at this ALDS, he has been tighter with his leash on who he gives the ball two. For example, Adam Ottavino got just one batter in Game 3 against the Twins after allowing a walk.
This isn't something intentional, though. Boone says he's just going with the flow of the game.
"I kinda go into the game and go into series and try to have a blueprint or plan in place that obviously is always fluid," he explained. "Just trying to do whatever to what's going to give us the best chance to win."
ON THE TEAM'S IMPROVED DEFENSE
Not only are the Yankees doing it at the plate, but with the gloves as well. Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres made some great defensive plays to help out their pitchers in Game 3, and overall this season, Boone has loved that improvement.
"I think Game 3 - a big reason we won that game was because of defense," Boone said.
He went on to discuss how DJ LeMahieu, a middle infielder by trade, is playing first base at the moment. He also made sure to mention Gio Urshela and how his solid leather at third base has been helpful all season long.
ON THE "PLAYER OF THE GAME" BELT
During the ALDS victory celebration in the Target Field clubhouse, Aaron Judge made sure to corral everyone and make a speech to hand out the team's "player of the game" belt to Gleyber Torres.
It looks like a WWE championship belt, and has become something Boone is happy to call a staple in the locker room.
"I love the belt. It's been a team-building thing for us," he said. "In a way, it's created some competition. Guys wanna fight for it, want to perform for it. It's fun to see teammates talk through it and have to give it out. So I think it's been something that, especially along the course of a long season, adds to the camaraderie I think. I got one once."