Hal Steinbrenner addresses the media before the Notre Dame-Army football...

Hal Steinbrenner addresses the media before the Notre Dame-Army football game at Yankee Stadium. (Nov. 20, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

Hal Steinbrenner says the success of these depleted Yankees -- he referred to them as "scrappy" -- is fortifying his commitment to get the payroll below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million for 2014.

"I always believed it could work if -- if -- the young players, which I've been saying all along, pan out and do their job," he said Thursday on his way out of the MLB owners meetings in Manhattan. "We still have [Michael] Pineda coming back, so we'll see how he does. I think he's going to do great.

"But the key is going to be the young players stepping up and really making contributions like they're doing right now."

The Yankees are 25-16 and in first place, a game ahead of the Red Sox, despite using a team with a current on-field payroll of about $140 million -- and that includes the return of Curtis Granderson ($15 million) this week. That leaves more than $70 million still on the DL.

"I'm proud of them, my family's proud of them," Steinbrenner said. "They've been fighting hard all year long, and despite significant adversity, they've persevered. It's fun to watch. They're scrappy. Coming from behind, it seems like certain times in the past, it's not something you had confidence in."

His plans include a big investment in Robinson Cano, who earlier this year dumped Scott Boras for a new agency headed by Jay-Z, who is working with CAA's point man, Brodie Van Wagenen. "We've had several conversations with Brodie, just as we did with Scott, and a lot of it is procedural," Steinbrenner said. "But we're going to continue in the weeks to come to work through things and try to come to an agreement."

He sounded optimistic about that, and not because Cano's firing of Boras seems to lessen his chances of testing free agency. "I still have faith that the player has a big say in it," Steinbrenner said. "I know that Robby wants to be there, and Robby knows that we want him to be here. We want him to end his career here. I think to me, whether I'm right or not, that plays a big part in it regardless of who the agent is. But we're going to continue to try and push ahead and get something done. We want him to be a Yankee."

Steinbrenner, however, is sticking to the club's policy of waiting until after the season to negotiate with Joe Girardi, who is in the final year of his contract. "We have to focus on our jobs right now," he said. "We're going to concentrate on what's important. But Joe's done a great job, there's no doubt about that, and we all like Joe. We're going to sit down and figure out what to do when this season ends, hopefully the beginning of November."

As for recent speculation about the Yankees potentially being up for sale in the near future, he shot it down. "Absolutely not selling the team," he said. "Have not been talking to anybody about selling the team. Have no intention of selling the team. What would I do?"

For now, he'll enjoy watching it while keeping that $189-million target in his sights. "The math works to me if the young kids do their job," he said. "It has to happen. And I've been saying that for over a year now -- that's the goal we're going to push for. But again, I'll reiterate what I always reiterate, which is we're always going to field a championship-caliber team."

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