BALTIMORE — The Yankees’ patience with Gary Sanchez isn’t infinite after all.
They benched the slumping catcher Sunday afternoon against the Orioles, with manager Aaron Boone not giving anything close to a definitive timeframe for when he might start behind the plate again.
“Just kind of deliberated on it a lot last night,” Boone said Sunday morning, a day after saying Sanchez would be in the lineup for the series finale against the Orioles. “I just feel like this is the way I need to go right now with hopefully a day off or, or two, or however I decide to do it here, can help get him going, because it's on all of us to get around him and try and help him get to what we know he can be.”
In the meantime, the everyday catching duties are likely to fall to Kyle Higashioka, a long-time favorite of the club’s analytics department, with 40-year-old Erik Kratz also seeing time. Kratz started Sunday with Masahiro Tanaka on the mound in the Yankees' 5-1 loss to Baltimore.
Sanchez's performance at the plate has been nothing short of unsightly. After striking out four times in four at-bats as the DH in Saturday night’s 6-1 loss, he is 5-for-40 with 19 strikeouts. He has 48 strikeouts in 100 at-bats overall, including nine in his last 11 at-bats.
Sanchez, among the most feared hitters in the league after reaching the majors for good in 2016, has a .130/.237/.350 slash line with 11 walks and 15 RBIs in 32 games. Of his 13 hits, eight have gone for extra bases (seven homers, one double).
“Gary wants to play,” Boone said of his conversation with Sanchez. “And to his credit, behind the scenes, he's working his tail off and wants to be in there. But in the end, I think this is the best thing right now.”
While in some circles Sanchez has been almost solely blamed for the Yankees’ offensive struggles, he’s far from the only Yankee skidding badly at the plate.
As Clint Frazier put it late Saturday night, “It’s no secret that we’re all struggling right now.” Actually, he's one of the more productive Yankees; Frazier entered Sunday's game hitting .288 with five homers and a .973 OPS in 20 games since being summoned from the team’s alternate site in Moosic, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 11.
Although his power numbers were good the previous two years, Sanchez batted .186 in 2018 and .232 last season, striking out 219 times in 719 at-bats.
Is there something Boone will be looking for before putting Sanchez back in the lineup?
“Not necessarily,” he said. “It'll just be monitoring each and every day, having conversations with the coaching staff each and every day and trying to best have a really good feel of the situation. Hopefully, again, do what's best for the team. And for Gary.”
Boone acknowledged the difficult balancing act of doing what he feels is best for the team and potentially damaging the confidence of the player.
“Especially when he wants in there and doesn't agree with it,” Boone said. “And so it's having tough conversations, but trying to do what you think's right for the player and for the team and trying to get him right because you know if we can get that going, how much of an impact that is. So that's part of the [managing] gig.”