On Sept. 19, the New York Yankees achieved what General Manager Brian Cashman described as Phase 1 of their season goals.
That occurred in a victory that gave the Yankees their first AL East crown since 2012 and enabled them to avoid the one-game crapshoot that is the wild-card game.
With the regular season wrapped up at 103-59, it's on to Phase 2.
That would be, of course, chasing the franchise's 28th World Series title, a pursuit that will begin Friday night at Yankee Stadium against the Twins when their American League Division Series begins.
"We're really excited for the opportunity, obviously have put ourselves in position here," Cashman said. "Our first step in this process was to win the division so we didn't have to deal with the wild-card issue. And so we've done that."
The Twins hit an MLB-record 307 home runs and were second in the majors with 939 runs. The Yankees hit 306 homers and led MLB with 943 runs.
As right fielder Aaron Judge put it: "This team will be ready."
Despite falling short of securing the AL's top seed, the Yankees by any measure had a successful regular season. Especially considering the record 30 players, in 39 stints, whom they placed on the injured list.
A slew of players — from Gio Urshela to Clint Frazier to Mike Tauchman to Domingo German to Cameron Maybin to Mike Ford, as well as others — exemplified the club's "next-man-up" mantra that was heard for the first time in March and served the team well throughout.
"Every single individual that's come up, whether they were waiver claimed or a free agent signed or promotions from within, from our amateur international signings or domestic amateur department, they played a role," Cashman said. "So even the big, bad Yankees need help. I think we've showed that we've had to rely on a lot of different personalities and names along the way that have created a name for themselves because of how they contributed to this roster this year."
Next up is piecing together the 25-man roster for the Division Series. Those meetings started in earnest over the weekend and will continue early this week. The roster does not need to be finalized until Friday morning.
Aside from those who will be put on the roster, among the decisions to be made are: who, other than James Paxton, will be treated like a traditional starter; which starters, other than CC Sabathia, will be bullpen options; and will the Yankees go with 12 or 13 pitchers (it likely will be the latter).
"I think it's all hands on deck and we'll be as creative as we have to be," Cashman said of the ALDS pitching strategy.
As for the Yankees' overwhelming success against the Twins — 99-37 against them since 2002, including 13-2 in the postseason — Cashman, like his players and manager, isn't going there.
"They're legit," he said. "And I think every team in the American League actually has a chance to run the table to represent the league in the World Series. So we're going to take our shot just like they are. We've got to play our best baseball. Period. End of story. And obviously do everything in our power to find a way to get past them and see what happens."