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Baby Bombers gaining valuable experience for Yankees

October 1, 2016 GMT

NEW YORK — Tyler Austin launched the tiebreaking two-run homer after Gary Sanchez tied the 86-year-old major-league record of fastest to 20 homers with a two-run shot earlier Tuesday night against the Red Sox -- the prelude to Bryan Mitchell’s seven shutout innings against them the next night.

The Yankees went younger these last two months of the season. Several promising kids received some valuable lessons on the job that they can take into next season.

“I think I speak for all of us: We’ve had a great time being up here and getting to watch the older guys go about their business and the way they handled themselves,” Austin said, alone at his locker before the Yankees began their final series, against Baltimore Friday night at Yankee Stadium. “It’s just been fun, and I’m happy to have been a part of it.

“I think it’s been really big for all of us -- get a chance to see what meaningful games mean late in the season, how we need to come about playing them and handle ourselves in those games.”

Of course, Sanchez has made the largest impact. The rookie catcher arrived on Aug. 3, quickly took over behind the plate and showed off a big arm and a bigger bat, although he was in a 1-for-23 skid entering Friday night.

“I’m a little surprised, but I work very hard,” Sanchez said via an interpreter after reaching that 20-homer mark in 51 games. “When I go out there, I try to give everything I have.”

If he can send up 20 in a little less than two months, how many will he hit in six?

“Next year is next year,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know how many I’m going to hit next year. So whatever it is, I’ll take it.”

Aaron Judge came up and took over in right on Aug. 13. But the 6-foot-7, 275-pounder batted just .179 with four homers, 10 RBI and 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats before going on the disabled list on Sept. 14 with an oblique strain.

His first homer came in his first big-league plate appearance. Austin was the next batter, making his debut, too. He provided an instant replay.

Austin had hit four prior to Friday night -- all go-ahead homers to the right side of the field at the Stadium. He was at .234 with 10 RBI in 28 games, including 20 starts at first base.

“The main thing is just trying to slow the game down up here,” Austin said. “The game up here moves at a little bit quicker pace. Pitchers’ stuff is a little bit better. You put a little bit more pressure on yourself.”

With Mark Teixeira retiring, it figures to be Greg Bird, who missed the season after shoulder surgery, vs. Austin in spring training to claim first.

“I’m excited about it,” Austin said.

Mitchell looked like he was going to be here from the start before injuring a big toe late in spring training and undergoing surgery. But in the five major-league starts after he returned, the 25-year-old righty went 1-2 with a 3.24 ERA.

“I’ve been confident ever since I came back,” Mitchell said.

There could be ample competition in spring training for one or a few rotation spots, depending on how the offseason shakes out. Luis Cessa has also done well. Luis Severino and Chad Green could also be in the running from the younger crowd.

“I don’t think it’s a bad problem to have,” Mitchell said. “… We’ve all had success this year. I think it’ll be fun next spring for sure.”