TAMPA, Fla. — Near the tip of his batting observe on Thursday afternoon, Gary Sanchez despatched a house run off the left subject scoreboard at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The sparse crowd watching from the stands applauded. Some cheered his identify.
Few Yankees gamers are coming into spring coaching as a lot an enigma as Sanchez. Will he be the All Star power-hitting catcher whose offense outweighed his defensive lapses, as he was in 2017? Or will he repeat 2018, the worst all-around marketing campaign of his younger profession? Or will it’s one thing in between?
For one, the Yankees mentioned Sanchez, 26, was in higher bodily situation than he was final yr. He had surgical procedure on his nonthrowing shoulder in November to take away tissue that was inflicting discomfort.
“I feel normal,” Sanchez mentioned in Spanish on Thursday. “Almost back to 100 percent.”
Still, to be cautious, the Yankees will maintain Sanchez out of spring coaching video games till round March 1. Sanchez refused to attribute his poor 2018 season on the plate to his shoulder, but the outcomes had been clear: After hitting .278 with 33 house runs in 2017, he mustered solely a .186 common with 18 homers final season. He additionally missed 57 video games with two occurrences of a groin harm.
“Last season was tough with a lot of obstacles,” he mentioned. “But that already passed. I won’t think about the shoulder.”
Although Sanchez’s identify surfaced in commerce rumors throughout the low season, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has been steadfast in supporting him=. Good-hitting catchers are exhausting to search out, particularly because the offensive manufacturing from that priceless place has trended down through the years.
The Boston Red Sox might have received the World Series with a platoon of light-hitting, defensive-minded catchers, but the Yankees caught by Sanchez. He led the majors in handed balls in every of the earlier two seasons, but the Yankees began him behind the plate for each playoff recreation in 2018.
“Being a young player behind the plate is a challenging position, especially when you consider the guy is truly a two-way player and carries as much of a load as he does offensively,” Manager Aaron Boone mentioned. “Because of the demands that come with being behind the plate, it doesn’t always happen quick for a catcher at a young age. That’s why a lot of times, you see a lot of catchers get to the big leagues typically a little later than most guys, because there’s a lot that goes into that position that’s not just physically demanding.”
Boone lauded Sanchez’s bodily situation as the most effective it had been in years, including that Sanchez had graded properly in conditioning assessments, akin to vertical soar, thus far in spring coaching. He additionally applauded Sanchez’s way of thinking.
While his managerial predecessor Joe Girardi, a former catcher, grew publicly frustrated with Sanchez’s defense, Boone, a former infielder, has taken a different approach. To foster their relationship and lift Sanchez’s confidence, Boone visited him in his native Dominican Republic during the off-season and had dinner with Sanchez and his wife.
“We’ve talked a lot about baseball and things beyond baseball,” Sanchez said. “We always talk about improving the team and me.”
Boone added: “I do feel like there’s been a growth and maturity there that comes out when I’m around him and talk to him now. There’s a real hunger to go out and show the world what a real player he is.”
Asked about improving his defense, Sanchez said fans too often focused on bad more than good. (Some advanced metrics rate Sanchez’s pitch-framing skills and throwing arm much better than his blocking.) He said his goal this year was to improve over all — not simply on defense. Boone said the Yankees’ catching coach, Jason Brown, is trying different stances and positioning with Sanchez behind the plate based on game situations.
“I feel good,” Sanchez said. “That’s most important. I have to stay healthy. I can repeat a good season if everything goes well and I can help the team on both sides — defense and hitting.”
Dellin Betances, one of the Yankees’ top relief pitchers, will not report to spring training for a few more days — at least until his wife is discharged from a hospital, Aaron Boone said. Betances’s wife, Janisa, gave birth to their son, Dellin Jr., on Wednesday.