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Why the Yankees are feeling encouraged even though they’re not going to make the playoffs

Jasson Dominguez, a 20-year-old outfielder and the most exciting of the group of young players called up by the Yankees this season, hit four home runs in eight games before tearing an elbow ligament.Adam Hunger/Associated Press

For a team that is sure to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016, the Yankees left Fenway Park on Thursday feeling encouraged about their future.

With Gerrit Cole not pitching, the Yankees took three of four from the Red Sox, giving them 12 victories over 17 games.

The decision to give regular playing time to infielder Oswaldo Cabrera (24), outfielder Estevan Florial (25), infielder Oswald Peraza (23), outfielder Everson Pereira (22), and catcher Austin Wells (24) has given a stagnating team life.

“We’re having fun,” said Anthony Volpe, the 22-year-old rookie shortstop who has been with the team all season.


Jasson Domínguez, a 20-year-old outfielder, was the most exciting of the group, hitting four home runs in eight games before tearing an elbow ligament. He will have Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.

Manager Aaron Boone, who looked all but fired a few weeks ago, now speaks with the confidence of somebody who believes he will stick around.

“It’s been a good thing for us,” he said. “I think our veteran players have embraced them coming up and enjoyed them being up and, I think, done a really good job of assimilating them into the clubhouse and making them comfortable.

“There’s been a level of success with those guys, or varying degrees of it. It’s been infectious for us, too.”

Boone readily acknowledged the difference it has made for him as a difficult season winds down.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed having these guys up and getting to see them. To see Austin come up and have an impact and see the presence that he brings with him and Everson and Oswald getting real opportunities.

“They’re good dudes. It’s been fun to see them and start to get their feet wet.”

Some of the young players could well become backups or not stick at all next season. But that’s why they’re on the roster now.


“It’s information gathering about people,” Boone said. “It’s an opportunity to play in big league games for a few weeks. You’ll take that information and apply it to evaluation and the player will take that information and apply it over the winter.”

For righthander Michael King, a contributor to three playoff teams, the idea of playing out the season is foreign.

But the former Bishop Hendricken High and Boston College star has been one of the veterans celebrating the success of the rookies. It was something Adam Ottavino taught him when they played together.

“He once told me one of his favorite things about baseball was seeing somebody make their debut,” King said. “I never really understood that. But now that I’m looking at it, it’s so special to watch. You picture yourself there and you know how hard it is to get up here.”

Then the rookies started to make a difference on the field.

“We hear about prospects all the time and they’re just prospects. It’s not a proven thing,” King said. “But they all came up and had an immediate impact on the team and it’s great to see in terms of the production.

“But you see the energy they have and they’re so excited to be up here. Then all of a sudden, the team starts to do well. It’s a snowball effect. We’re very excited.”


From across the field, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been impressed.

“They’ve got some interesting guys,” he said. “I don’t want to say this is 2016 when [Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez] came up. It’s not the same. But talking to some people over there, they’re feeling better about the situation. Obviously, it didn’t work for them early on and now this is what you do, you turn the page and you start getting ready for next year in a sense when you start playing kids like that.

“They’re very pleased with the way they’ve been playing. Pitching is pitching, they always pitch. They have their guys; their relievers are good. When you do that, you always have a shot.

“It’s not a different brand of baseball because they still have [DJ] LeMahieu, Judge, and [Giancarlo] Stanton. But as far as the other kids, they’re playing well.”

The remake of the Yankees created an opportunity for King.

The righthander went into the rotation on Aug. 24 and has a 1.27 ERA over five starts and 21⅓ innings since. King has walked only four and struck out 29.

He took a loss against the Red Sox in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader but allowed only one run over 4⅔ innings while striking out eight.

“I’m very excited about it,” King said. “I’ve always thrown four pitches, even as a reliever. So it’s not easy to go back to starting, but it’s easier than it could be. My role was multiple innings so there were many times I’d face the same hitter and I knew I couldn’t attack him the same way twice. Now it’s the same situation.”


King had some spot starts during the 2020 and ‘21 seasons. But he had not worked in a rotation since 2019, his last season in the minors.

He raised the subject with Boone in spring training. It didn’t go anywhere until a series of injuries left the Yankees needing rotation help and he changed roles. So far it has been a success, and he should get another three starts before the season ends.

King doesn’t know if the Yankees see him as a starter for 2024. But he plans to prepare for that role. It’s always easier for a pitcher to build up to 90-100 pitches and dial back if necessary than to build up once the season starts.

“He’s done a good job with starting,” Boone said. “We’ll see where it goes.”

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What’s the best

role for Sale?

Among the many questions for the next Red Sox general manager to tackle will be how to proceed with Chris Sale in what will be the final year of his contract.

Sale, who turns 35 in March, has a 4.34 earned run average and only 54 starts over the last five seasons.

It would be foolish to include Sale in the rotation as plans are made for 2024. It seems inevitable he will break down at some point given all his injuries over the last few seasons.


What are the options? Releasing him is too rash. Another team would pick him up and leave the Sox on the hook for his salary. The best choice would be to make Sale a multi-inning reliever who pitches once every four or five days.

If Sale stays healthy, that gives him a chance to pitch roughly 100 innings in high-leverage situations. If not, replacing a reliever is a lot easier than having to find a new starter on the fly.

That’s not an ideal way to use a player with a salary of $27.5 million. But it’s better than living with so much uncertainty.

A few other observations on the Red Sox:

▪ It’s understandable some Sox fans were hoping Theo Epstein would return to the organization when Chaim Bloom was fired. But it never made sense.

Epstein has already conquered Boston, breaking the curse with the 2004 championship and winning a second title in 2007.

A third championship with the Sox wouldn’t add much to his legacy. He’s a Hall of Famer if he never takes another job in baseball given what he accomplished with the Red Sox and Cubs.

Beyond that, Epstein has always been a person who seeks new challenges, not to revisit old ones.

He is closing in on 50 and has already spent 19 years as a GM. He now lives on Connecticut’s Gold Coast, consults with MLB, and works on the investment side of sports.

You think he wants to spend his weekends sweating out who’s coming in to pitch the eighth inning?

Epstein’s logical next step in baseball would be to build an expansion team from the ground up as part of the ownership group. Winning a fourth World Series in that way would be special. Or maybe he’s the next commissioner if Rob Manfred retires when his contract ends in 2029.

One caveat: It’s not out of the question that Epstein and Sam Kennedy could someday organize a group to purchase the Red Sox if Fenway Sports Group dissolves. But that’s unlikely to happen any time soon, if ever.

▪ Senior vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero should get serious consideration to become GM.

He has led the team’s productive international scouting efforts and remains an in-person evaluator of amateur prospects.

Romero, who has been with the team since 2006, speaks the language of player development, analytics, game preparation, and all the other areas a GM would oversee. He also knows the terrain, having first been at Fenway Park to see his father, Ed Romero, play for the team in the 1980s.

Ceddanne Rafaela started at shortstop in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Yankees and in center field for Game 2.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only other Red Sox player to do that was Félix Mantilla on Aug. 9, 1964, at Chicago. He started in center field in Game 1, then switched to shortstop in Game 2.

Mantilla, who signed with the Boston Braves before the 1952 season, is 89.

Alex Cora will join Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart at the Globe Summit on Thursday afternoon to discuss their leadership strategies and how they encourage collaboration by elite professionals.

Boston Globe Media CEO Linda Henry will moderate the conversation.

On Tuesday, Red Sox chief marketing officer Adam Grossman will take part in a panel discussion with Kraft Group chief marketing officer Jen Ferron, Celtics president Rich Gotham, and Bruins president Cam Neely on business strategies in their respective sports and how the franchises interact and compete with each other.

Globe reporter Michael Silverman will host that roundtable. Go to globe.com/summit for more information.

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Hicks’s experience

is helping Orioles

Aaron Hicks has played in 30 postseason games during his 11 seasons in the majors, 10 more than all of his Baltimore teammates put together.

Four days after being released by the Yankees on May 26, Hicks joined the Orioles. The 33-year-old switch-hitter has been a platoon player since, getting most of his at-bats against righthanders and starting games at all three outfield positions.

Through 53 games with the Orioles, Hicks has hit .287 with an .843 OPS and 29 RBIs. All it cost Baltimore was the prorated minimum, about $480,000.

“I’m having a great time,” Hicks said. “This team obviously has a lot of young talent. But what impresses me is how together they are. They’re ready for every game and there’s a lot of fight in this team. That’s what you want. We’ve come back to win a lot of games.”

The Orioles went into the weekend 91-53, the best record in the American League.

For a team that hasn’t played in the postseason since 2016, any spot in the tournament would be welcome. But Hicks is stressing to his teammates to finish the job and lock up the top seed.

“You want to finish off the season playing well and put yourself in the best position you can,” he said. “That extra time off can make a lot of difference. With Tampa Bay behind us, we have something to play for and that’s a good thing.

“The most important thing is to play sound baseball; don’t make mistakes. We have the talent.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde likes the way his team has played this month.

“No matter what the score is, we take good at-bats. They stay in the moment and every at-bat matters,” he said. “We’re taking good team at-bats.”

Extra bases

When Orix Buffaloes righthander Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw a no-hitter last Saturday, cameras spotted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman applauding from the front row behind the plate. Cashman, special assistant Omar Minaya, and others on his staff attended the game, as did scouts from almost every other major league team. The Red Sox are very familiar with Yamamoto from having scouted his teammate, Masataka Yoshida, last year. Once Yamamoto is posted, expect a bidding war. Having watched Yamamoto in the World Baseball Classic, he compares favorably with Pedro Martinez in the sense that he’s a smallish righthander (5 feet 10 inches,170 pounds) with an advanced feel for pitching and high-end velocity. Pedro’s signature pitch was his changeup. Yamamoto features a soul-crushing splitter. You can expect the Dodgers, Mets, and Yankees to be all-in on Yamamoto. Do the Red Sox still compete for players at that level? Along with Shohei Ohtani, Yamamoto will be the talk of the offseason, but the real prize in Japan is 21-year-old Chiba Lotte righthander Roki Sasaki. He throws 100 miles per hour like he’s playing catch in the backyard. If he stays healthy, his posting will set off a frenzy in a few years . . . The Rangers may want to stop acquiring former Cy Young winners. They signed Jacob deGrom to a five-year, $185 million contract then lost him to Tommy John surgery after six starts. Then they traded one of their top prospects, outfielder Luisangel Acuña, for Max Scherzer. He lasted eight starts before he strained a muscle in his shoulder and was deemed out for the rest of the regular season and likely any postseason games . . . Freddie Freeman had 55 doubles with 17 games left. No player has had 60 since Hall of Famers Ducky Medwick (64) of the Cardinals and Charlie Gehringer (60) of the Tigers in 1936 . . . Former Boston College outfielder Donovan Casey was one of the prospects the Nationals obtained from the Dodgers in 2021 for Trea Turner. Casey hasn’t hit well the last two seasons and on Sept. 7 pitched a perfect inning for Double A Harrisburg after working with the pitching coaches on the side. It could be the start of something. Casey appeared in 32 games for BC from 2015-17 and had a 2.43 ERA with 36 strikeouts over 40⅔ innings. The righthander also collected six saves . . . Julio Urias no longer has a locker in the Dodgers’ clubhouse and the team covered up or painted over spots around Dodger Stadium where his image was. MLB has yet to rule on Urias’s second domestic violence case in five years, but manager Dave Roberts indicated the team is done with the 27-year-old lefthander, who will be a free agent after the season . . . Happy birthday to Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, who is 86. The Baby Bull played for the Red Sox in 1973 and was their first designated hitter. He batted fifth on April 6, 1973, as the DH and was 0 for 6 against the Yankees in a 15-5 victory. Cepeda hit .289 with a .793 OPS and had 20 of his career 379 home runs that season.

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Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him @PeteAbe.