TAMPA, Fla. -- Hank Steinbrenner expects his struggling New York Yankees to focus and turn around their season.
"They've got to play smarter and harder," he said Wednesday, even before manager Joe Girardi called a pregame meeting.
"The injuries -- when you're missing Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, that makes it tough," Steinbrenner said. "The injuries make a huge difference. At the same time, you've got to get it done. We still have plenty of good hitters. We need to get the job done."
New York began the night 19-21, fourth in the AL East following a pair of losses to Tampa Bay, the surprise AL East leader.
"No question, the Rays are a hungry team," said Steinbrenner, the Yankees' co-chairman. "That's what our team has to get back."
When asked if it was time for the players to earn their money, Steinbrenner said "Yes."
Steinbrenner, who lives in the Tampa Bay area, was in attendance for Wednesday night's game. Girardi held a 35-minute meeting and said the session was not about Steinbrenner's comments.
Girardi declined to offer details except to say it came from his "heart."
"The effort of the club has been good," he said. "When you don't score runs, you don't look good. We bring energy every day, but the bottom line is it has to translate into wins."
Following the four-game series against the Rays, the Yankees host the New York Mets in a three-game series starting Friday. Two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, traded to the Mets after the Yankees cut off talks with the Minnesota Twins, is slated to pitch the Subway Series opener Friday. Santana is 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA.
"To me, it's not any added significance because Santana is pitching. We want to win, it's that simple," Steinbrenner said. "We're both kind of struggling. We just need to win. They just need to win. We just need to keep putting wins in the win column. We've got to start racking up some runs."
Steinbrenner will likely watch Friday's game on TV in Florida, but could be at Yankee Stadium over the weekend.
"I think there is a very good chance I might go up there," he said.
In his first season overseeing the team's baseball operations, Steinbrenner expects the Yankees to put together a hot streak, which has become a trademark in recent years.
"We're going to do everything we can turn to it around this year," Steinbrenner said. "I guarantee we'll get his thing straight next year."
Girardi believes the Yankees will turn it around this season.
"He has a passion for winning just like father," Girardi said of Hank Steinbrenner. "He expects to win today and every day. The club expects to win every day, and it's not happening, and it's bothering him. I'm expecting us to be a lot better, and we'll find a way."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter said Steinbrenner has the right to speak his mind.
"He wants to win, that's the bottom line," Jeter said. "I think everybody's playing hard, we're just not winning games. He can say whatever he wants to say. He's the boss. People here are working hard. People here care about results. We just hit a rough stretch. Play good for two weeks and everyone will say how great we are."
Rodriguez hasn't played since April 28 because of a strained right quadriceps and hopes to return Tuesday. Posada hasn't been able to catch for most of the season because of a right shoulder injury and won't be back until June at the earliest. Both took batting practice at the Yankees' minor league complex Wednesday.
"There's no question, when we get 100 percent healthy, we'll start hitting," Steinbrenner said. "The players, the hand they were dealt, that makes it tougher for the other hitters."
Rodriguez said it's tough not being able to contribute to the Yankees' offense, which has been sluggish.
"It's frustrating," Rodriguez said. "It's hard to watch. All I can do is cheer. I have all the confidence in the world that we're going to start scoring some runs."
Rodriguez is expected to run the bases for the first time Thursday, a key step in his rehab program. He will work out with the team before the game against the Rays so Yankees manager Joe Girardi can watch the session.
"Joe wants to see me run the bases," said Rodriguez, who could play in minor league games in Florida this weekend.
Rodriguez took 89 swings in batting practice, fielded 24 grounders and continued a running program in the outfield Wednesday at the Yankees' minor league complex.