SEATTLE — New York Yankees rookie Gary Sanchez is taking everyone’s at-bats. First, he stripped Brian McCann of his catching gear, after becoming the Yankees’ regular catcher. Now, Joe Girardi won’t even sit Sanchez on what was supposed to be a day off.
“He’s got one Thursday, so I’ll give him one on Thursday,” Girardi said before the Yankees’ 5-1 win over the Mariners, cracking one of his signature jokes, because the Yankees have no game Thursday.
Girardi had planned on giving Sanchez the day off Tuesday or Wednesday, but because Sanchez is so hot at the plate, the manager gave Sanchez only a half-day. Sanchez was the Yankees DH and — can you believe it? — didn’t homer. He did have a single in four at-bats.
For the season, he is hitting .377 with eight homers and 15 RBIs in 18 games.
“He’s playing himself into playing every day,” Girardi said. “That’s what he has done. It’s impressive. He was impressive [Monday] night. Not only what he did offensively, but throwing a baserunner out. You can’t say anymore about him.”
Well, you can, and we will. Sanchez is becoming the face of the Yankees, their most dynamic player, with a real chance to have staying power.
There have been Yankee rookies who have had quick starts before. Kevin Maas and Shane Spencer are two that come immediately to mind. The difference is that neither Maas nor Spencer were signed for $3 million as 16-year-olds. They were not super prospects.
“It’s been as impressive as I’ve seen,” Girardi said.
The reason why Sanchez’s start feels like the real deal is his defense. Bats go into slumps, whereas gloves generally don’t. Sanchez’s arm has been compared to Pudge Rodriguez’s by Mark Teixeira. He has been excellent at calling games, blocking balls and pretty much every aspect of catching.
“Defensively, he has been just as good as offensively,” Girardi said.
While he is the biggest reason to watch the Yankees on a daily basis, he is not the reason the Yankees won Tuesday.
The big-money guys, CC Sabathia and Jacoby Ellsbury, led the way on the field. Sabathia pitched seven innings of one-run ball, and Ellsbury hit a two-run homer. Sabathia improved to 8-10 with a 4.33 ERA.
“He’s pitched a lot better than his ERA,” Girardi said.
The Yankees needed to come in here and sweep to bolster their faint wild-card chances. They are five games out of the second spot.
Sanchez is expected to be behind home plate on Wednesday afternoon as Masahiro Tanaka faces Hisashi Iwakuma. The last time Sanchez caught Tanaka, Tanaka fired 7⅔ scoreless innings against the Angels. In that series, Sanchez threw out Mike Trout on a one-hop throw and picked off a guy at first.
Girardi studies his catcher probably with more intensity than any other position. It was the position he played in the majors. He is a big believer that it is defense that comes first with a catcher, which is something he has preached to Sanchez.
With that said, Girardi notices all the nuances of the position. Sanchez checks them off. That is why he caught a day game after a night game over the weekend.
Sanchez is also crushing the ball, which is why Girardi kept him in the lineup Tuesday. Girardi plans on riding the impressive 23-year-old as far as he will take the Yankees. Does anyone watching, besides opponents, want Sanchez to have a day off, anyway?