BOSTON - Being called up for your major-league debut in the middle of a series at Fenway Park is not a matter of getting your feet wet. It is diving into the deep end.
That is the new wrinkle in the Yankees' approach, one that says wrinkles and other signs of age are not prerequisites. If you're a young guy in the system, as is second baseman Rob Refsnyder, you're going to get a chance to sink or swim.
Refsnyder's instant promotion and insertion into the starting lineup against the Red Sox last night sent another strong message to the organization's minor-leaguers. As general manager Brian Cashman put it about 90 minutes before Refsnyder turned his first double play in the second inning: "Come on up and try to make a name for yourself."
That has become a chorus and a refrain, what with Refsnyder becoming the 11th Yankee to make his major-league debut this season. Don't bet on him being the last, either.
These are not your father's Yankees. More important, these are not Hal Steinbrenner's father's Yankees.
Not that anyone is going to have to start checking Yankees IDs at the hotel bar. They still are an overwhelmingly veteran team, as they were in George Steinbrenner's heyday. The difference now, though, is that prospects are being seen as something other than trading chips.
Whenever Hal speaks publicly, he extols the farm system. His message is that there no longer is a bottomless pit of dollar bills. If the club needs something, it is more likely to dip into the minors than its cash reserves. So if you're playing for the squad in Scranton, you'd better leave your cellphone on and answer it -- unlike Refsnyder on Friday.
"I was actually watching a movie with Aaron Judge when I got a phone call," he said, referring to the Yankees' top outfield prospect. "I didn't answer it because it was a pretty good movie. 'The Fugitive,' with Harrison Ford. It was like the last 30 minutes."
After he did call back, he felt as if he were the star of a fantasy flick. By the time he took the field last night, his fiancée, parents and future in-laws had all found their way to Boston.
In the tiny visitors' clubhouse before the game, he said, "I'm just going to try to help the Yankees win a game. Hearing me say that is a pretty cool experience."
Unlike most of the Yankees' other call-ups this season, Refsnyder was not here as a replacement for an injured player. He was promoted to sub for Stephen Drew, who is here, healthy and slumping.
Said Refsnyder, "The Yankees' management and coaching staffs have always been very vocal: If you play hard, work hard and you execute, opportunities are going to arise."
His debut occurred against a Red Sox rookie, Eduardo Rodriguez, on a day when Boston promoted another lefthanded pitcher, Brian Johnson (summoned after Clay Buchholz, Friday night's starter, went on the disabled list with a non-season-ending injury). But you'd expect that from a team in last place. The Yankees, when they have been in first place, as they are now, always have seemed allergic to rookies.
"There are opportunities in the game, and if you're playing well, you're going to get the opportunity at some point," Joe Girardi said. "As we tell all the guys once they come up and we send them [back] down, 'Be ready because the phone is going to ring again. So be the guy who is playing well.' The thing about the game, and the world we live in, is if you produce, you're going to play."
Refsnyder bounced into a double play, was robbed of a hit when rightfielder Alejandro De Aza made a diving catch, popped out to first and cleanly fielded two grounders. He is expected to get another chance to show what he can do Sunday.
Just his presence here, in such a big spot, is a message to all the players the Yankees have on the way up -- and maybe a few who are here now.