PHILADELPHIA — Gary Sanchez is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a right groin strain and while Aaron Boone obviously would prefer it otherwise, the Yankees manager said maybe the time away can benefit the All-Star catcher who hasn’t always played like one this season.
“Hopefully it’s a positive,” Boone said Monday before the Yankees started a three-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. “Not only allowing him to get physically right, but hopefully it’s a little break for him mentally and he can refresh a little bit.”
Which isn’t to say, of course, that Boone views it as overall a good thing.
Even with the difficulties getting going at the plate, Sanchez, though hitting .190 with a .291 on-base percentage, still has 14 home runs, 14 doubles and 41 RBIs.
“Huge,” Boone said of the loss. “Gary Sanchez out of your lineup, that’s a big deal.”
The Yankees announced earlier Monday that Sanchez, after undergoing an MRI earlier in the day in Tampa, had been placed on the disabled list with the groin injury he suffered the day before trying to beat out a double-play ball in the 10th inning of a 7-6 loss to the Rays.
It was diagnosed as a Grade 1 strain.
“Pretty good news,” Boone said. “Anytime you’re dealing with a groin, hammy, quad, you always get a little nervous, but I feel like that [the MRI result] was on the better end of things so we’re looking at probably three or four weeks.”
Kyle Higashioka, the club’s starting catcher at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was recalled and will serve as the backup to Austin Romine.
The 29-year-old Romine, enjoying by far the best season offensively of his big-league career — .305/.370/.524 slash line entering Monday night’s game — was elevated to the starter role.
“I think he’s a way better hitter than he was at this point last year,” Boone said. “I think mechanically he has the ability to be an everyday catcher. I think the biggest challenge for us . . . we’ll be cautious to not run him into the ground because he hasn’t done it over the last few years regularly, game after game after game, but I’m confident we’re going to get a really good performance from Ro, an everyday kind of performance.”
Higashioka, who appeared in nine games with the Yankees last season, is still looking for his first career hit in the majors after an 0-for-18 start. He slashed .191/.265/.328 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 51 games this season with Scranton.
“It feels great to be back but, obviously, pretty bittersweet because you don’t like to see guys get hurt,” said the 28-year-old Higashioka, a seventh-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2008. “But it’s an opportunity so I’m hoping to go out there and make the best of it.”
On Sunday, Sanchez was resigned to the fact he’d be missing some time.
“What can I say? That’s how baseball is sometimes,” Sanchez said through his translator. “You never want something bad to happen, but it’s part of baseball. Now I’m just hoping it’s not a long time. I have to keep my head up and come back as soon as possible.”
Boone said whenever that occurs, he believes the Yankees will see far more of the player who, in his first full season in the majors in 2017, hit 33 homers and drove in 90 runs in 122 games.
“Hopefully this break in the action for him allows him to refresh a little bit mentally,” Boone said. “And [when] he comes back, I’m confident we’ll have a dynamic player the final months of the season.”