Big Papi thinks it would be a big mistake to count the Yankees out for a deep postseason run.
In an interview with Newsday, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz called the Blue Jays "the team to beat" for the American League pennant, but said of the Yankees: "They have a lot of good things -- enough to go far."
"Look at the Yankees, and I'll give you my honest opinion; they have a great bullpen and players in the lineup that can do damage, though [Mark] Teixeira is a hard bat to replace," Ortiz said. "Their starting pitching is OK.
"Anything can happen in the playoffs but they have players that have been in the postseason and won the World Series, [so] they know the way."
Many think the Yankees' reliance on older players is an Achilles' heel, but Ortiz does not. Though top home run hitter Alex Rodriguez is 40, batting average leader Carlos Beltran is 38 and rotation mainstay CC Sabathia is 35, "you feel no pain from the season in the playoffs. There's no pain allowed," the 39-year-old Ortiz said. "When I'm in the playoffs, I feel like it's February."
Like most observers, Ortiz said the Toronto lineup is something to marvel. But he said the Jays also have the pitching that is so crucial to success in the postseason. He noted that the recent return of former Patchogue-Medford star Marcus Stroman to join a rotation that includes former Cy Young Award winners David Price and R.A. Dickey makes the Blue Jays even more formidable.
"I'd take that kid any time. He's 'on.' That's how you want a pitcher to be in the postseason," Ortiz said of Stroman. "It doesn't matter that this is only his second year in the league. You see what he's got? He's ready . . . Pitchers like him can make a difference."
Stroman missed almost the entire season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during spring training and has returned ahead of schedule this month to go 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three starts.
The Yankees have scored just 18 runs in their last seven games and if there is something that looms over them, Ortiz said, it's the streaky run production.
"That's a fact. Losing Teixeira? And in the season he was having? Losing a power bat like that makes a huge difference," Ortiz said. "That could be a problem, no doubt about it.
"But Beltran is doing good. A-Rod is doing good. [Brett] Gardner is good. [Brian] McCann has been great, having a hell of a season . . . You can't ignore the Yankees."