Aaron Boone isn’t counting out Gary Sanchez. Quite the contrary, actually.
The Yankees’ manager believes Sanchez, now the team’s part-time catcher, is close to finding his stroke.
“There’s a lot of underlying things that suggest he’s ready to really bust out,” Boone said Friday, before Sanchez was one of a few bright spots in an ugly 11-4 loss to the Nationals in The Bronx.
Sanchez reached base twice in four trips to the plate, slugged his first home run since the second game of the season and also flew out to the fence in right-center field, backing up Boone’s point that he was taking better at-bats and seeing better pitches.
In his three previous starts, which spanned the team’s last nine games as he lost playing time to Kyle Higashioka, Sanchez had drawn at least one walk. He has been more selective at the plate this year, already with 13 bases on balls after managing just 18 a year ago in more than double the at-bats.
But the results have yet to materialize otherwise, which is why Sanchez has been spending more time on the bench.
“He’s walking more, he’s chasing less,” Boone said of Sanchez, who is still hitting just .182 with a .675 OPS. “He’s making better swing decisions. For Gary, it’s just getting to that point of now combining the quality swing decisions, getting on base a little bit more with now unleashing that good ‘A’ swing when he gets a pitch to hammer. We know that’s in there.”
Of course, it may be tougher to find his swing with fewer reps. For the first time, Sanchez is a part-time player. Boone pointed out that off-days can help players, and he hopes Sanchez can fit into that category. With a day game on Saturday, Boone said he likely would start Higashioka at catcher, but go back to Sanchez on Sunday.
Higashioka, who earned his way into more playing time with a hot start to the season, has since tailed off. He’s in a 1-for-19 rut, during which his batting average has dropped to .220, though he still has an impressive .919 OPS. He has gone hitless in four of his last five starts, and he whiffed twice in four trips to the plate Thursday.
Boone isn’t concerned. He said he hasn’t seen anything in Higashioka’s approach or swing that would suggest anything but a few hitless games.
“I don’t think Higgy is going to lead the league in hitting or anything, but I also believe he’s really a threat at the plate,” Boone said, “and I feel he’s a much more advanced offensive player that he’s ever been, and I feel like I’m seeing that in his at-bats in the last couple of games where he’s not getting results.”