NEW YORK — Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner is backing Manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff and has blamed players for the team’s slow start.

With New York last in the AL East at 16-22, Steinbrenner singled out Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino for criticism.

Speaking Wednesday outside Major League Baseball’s offices, Steinbrenner says “the first five weeks were disappointing, frustrating, particularly looking at the offense. Clearly not living up to their potential. … When you look at a guy like Mark Teixeira, clearly he’s not playing to his potential with the bat.”

He says Pineda’s decline is “concerning” and it is up to the pitcher to figure out. Severino, he adds, has “to learn how to push through that downturn.”

“I don’t think it’s a flaw in the way the team is put together,” Steinbrenner said. “I think the team we have this year is better than the team we had last year.”

Now 46 and his hair starting to gray near the temples, Steinbrenner put off questions about what he would do if the Yankees are far from contention as the Aug. 1 deadline approaches for trades without waivers. After missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in two decades, New York returned last October only to lose to Houston in the AL wild-card game.

For their first 22 home games, the Yankees averaged 38,587 fans, on track to surpass last year’s average of 39,992 given the larger crowds that usually show up when school is out.

New York won six World Series titles while George Steinbrenner was in charge. Hal, whose only title since taking over came in 2009, knows the standard his father set. “If my name wasn’t Steinbrenner, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I don’t look at this as something I deserve. I’ve been given this. It’s a gift. I respect it, and I enjoy it.”

INDIANS: Cleveland called up right-hander Mike Clevinger from Triple-A Columbus to make his major league debut in the first game of a series against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Indians optioned outfielder Tyler Naquin to Columbus to open a roster spot.

RANGERS: Shawn Tolleson will not be closing games for Texas for a while, Rangers Manager Jeff Banister revealed before Wednesday’s series finale with the Oakland Athletics. He will be replaced by Sam Dyson.

Tolleson, who enters play tied with A’s Ryan Madson and Seattle’s Cishek for the AL lead with 11 saves, had his fourth blown save Tuesday night, allowing a grand slam to Khris Davis with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Rangers had taken the lead on a two-run homer by Ian Desmond in the top of the ninth, pinning Madson with his first blown save of the season.

The Rangers have lost six times in walk-off fashion, the most in the majors and matching their total from last year.

n Right-hander Yu Darvish is scheduled to make his fifth start on injury rehab assignment on Sunday for the Frisco RoughRiders. He’s scheduled for six innings or 90 pitches.

ROCKIES: Colorado is sending Jose Reyes to extended spring training with no firm plan for when he’s eligible to return June 1.

Reyes has been suspended without pay under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. The team will make him available to media on Thursday at its spring training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. The team said it would be the lone media access to Reyes prior to his rehab assignment, and that there would be no other access at the complex.

Manager Walt Weiss said Wednesday that he hadn’t spoken with the 32-year-old Reyes. He wasn’t sure how long Reyes would need to get ready.

The four-time All-Star’s future with the Rockies is murky given the emergence of rookie shortstop Trevor Story.

Reyes’ suspension stemmed from an alleged altercation with his wife at a Hawaii resort last October.

REDS: Cincinnati tried to help its struggling bullpen by calling up right-handers Jumbo Diaz and Keyvius Sampson from Triple-A Louisville before the start of a two-game series against the Cleveland Indians.

Cincinnati’s bullpen got roughed up during 15-6 and 13-1 losses in Cleveland the two previous days. Reds relievers have a 6.46 ERA and have allowed 31 homers and 81 walks in 39 games, by far the worst in the majors.

MARLINS: Giancarlo Stanton is fully shouldering the blame for his recent lack of production after Miami finished a miserable series against the Phillies.

Stanton struck out four times in a 4-2 loss on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m playing like (garbage),” Stanton said. “Can’t do it no more. We’re not going to be successful with zero production out of your cleanup guy.”

Stanton has fanned in his past seven at-bats. He was 0 for 10 with nine strikeouts against the Phillies. After one of his early strikeouts, he smashed his bat in the dugout. Overall, Stanton was 4 for 28 on Miami’s road trip.

“He’s (just) one guy on our team,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “Last two games probably were his worst at-bats of the season.”


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