09/29/10 1:33 AM ET
Yanks acknowledge work is far from done
By Larry Millson / Special to MLB.com
So while they celebrated clinching a postseason berth with a 6-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday, splashing assorted beverages over each other and bystanders, they talked about how their work isn't done.
"It's really just the first step," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "No one in here is satisfied with the season -- everyone knows it's World Series championship or bust."
And though the defending World Series champs have clinched at least the American League Wild Card, there is still the AL East to fight for -- a spot held by a scant half-game by the Tampa Bay Rays.
"It's always a relief when you get to the playoffs." Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "I don't care what year it is.
"We have a good team, obviously. We think we play in the toughest division in baseball, and we did pretty good all year. Yeah, there's been ups and downs, but you get in the playoffs and everything starts over. Everybody is 0-0 next week.
"We could control tonight. Everything else, we have no control over. This is a celebration of a 162-game schedule, not just the last two weeks. I think the team deserves to celebrate."
"This is what you play for -- we've got a chance now," added veteran southpaw Andy Pettitte -- a longtime brilliant postseason performer. "This is the first step to get to the playoffs -- about a month ago, it looked like it was going to be a lot easier than the way it seems we've made it here. It was tough and we hadn't been playing that great, but we're in and everybody's excited.
"We can just relax now for a few days. We still want to try to play hard, want to win -- it's exciting. It's just a special time of year."
The Yankees won Tuesday's game behind left-hander CC Sabathia (21-7), who also stated his case for the AL Cy Young Award by holding the Blue Jays to three hits and one run over 8 1/3 innings en route to his 21st win.
"You can't say enough about CC," third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "I'm speechless when it comes to him. The minute he put on the pinstripes, he's been everything that we've expected and a lot more. He's been a dream for our franchise."
Sabathia echoed the sentiment that the Yankees have more hard work ahead.
"This was the first step, getting in -- now we've got a chance to defend our title," Sabathia said. "This was our first goal, and we'll see what happens at the end of the year.
"I feel like last year, everything came a little easy. This year, we've been grinding and I think that makes for a lot of character on the team. Hopefully it will help us in the playoffs."
Manager Joe Girardi, meanwhile, still has not lost sight of the AL East title, but he also stresses that he must keep his players fresh for the playoffs.
"Obviously that's your first goal, to get in," Girardi said. "We still have aspirations of winning our division and trying to get home-field advantage. I've got to pick my spots to rest guys. You think about Derek Jeter and Robbie Cano, they've played the last 12 days in a row. Alex has played the last nine in a row, I believe.
"I've got to make sure our guys are strong. That's the first thing."
Following the clinch, however, Girardi's players were eager to finish the task at hand.
"This was huge," Teixeira said. "I want to play; I want to win this division. Some of it is not in our hands. Joe is going to make the decisions he needs to make. At the same time, we go out there every single night trying to win."
Pettitte feels the Yankees are as strong as last year.
"I really do," he said. "We've got pretty much the same team. I feel good about our bullpen. Obviously when you've got CC leading our rotation, you've got to feel pretty good about that -- how can you not? I feel good about what we're doing, I really do. I don't think anybody wants to face our lineup. It's exciting, but you've got to out there and play the games now."
Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.