TAMPA, Fla. — Gary Sanchez dealt with a lingering left shoulder issue throughout last season, a problem that required surgery in November.
But the catcher declined to use that as an alibi for a 2018 season he described as “bad” multiple times during the offseason.
“I can’t use that as an excuse,” Sanchez said Thursday morning through his translator. “Injuries are part of the game. It was definitely a tough season full of different adversities for sure, but I can’t use that as an excuse. Have to put that year behind me and focus on this year.”
Sanchez enters spring training slightly behind some of his teammates, but not too much. After an early arrival in Tampa, he has worked with pitchers and taken batting practice for the last few weeks at the club’s minor-league complex, and he said he likely will make his debut in exhibition games about a week after the first game, which is Feb. 23.
“I feel normal, I want to say close to 100 percent,” Sanchez said. “It’s good.”
He was far from that – on offense and defense – last season.
Two separate stints on the disabled list because of a right groin strain were a hindrance, but Sanchez hasn’t used that as an excuse either for producing a .186/.291/.406 slash line, 18 homers and 53 RBIs.
His defense, which garnered even more criticism, was a season-long struggle. Despite appearing in only 89 games, Sanchez led the majors for a second straight season with 18 passed balls (he allowed 16 in 2017 in 122 games).
Despite the down year, general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone, who visited with Sanchez and his wife at the player’s offseason home in the Dominican Republic, remained steadfast in their support. There were plenty of offseason rumors about the Yankees possibly packaging Sanchez in a trade, but Cashman never really considered moving a player he’s long referred to as a franchise cornerstone.
“It feels great to have the support of the entire organization,” Sanchez said. “It’s definitely a touch of encouragement to see that from your team. And what can I say about Boone? Boone has been great from the moment he got here. We’re always chatting, we’re always communicating. That kind of support from him, from my teammates and the organization, it feels awesome.”
In his spring training kickoff news conference Wednesday, Boone said what he most took from his offseason time with Sanchez, who is noticeably slimmer, was a desire to return to his 2017 All-Star form.
“There’s a real hunger to go out and show the world what a good player he is,” Boone said.
The key to doing that?
“Health is the No. 1 thing,” Sanchez said. “I know that if I am healthy, I’ll have an opportunity to play every day and to help contribute the way I know how. To me, that’s the No. 1 thing, stay healthy.”
Although Sanchez knows 2018 will hover over him throughout spring training and if he gets off to a slow start in the regular season, it’s not on his mind.
“I’m just focusing on the positive things and the future,” he said. “There’s no reason to keep dwelling on the past and a bad year. To be honest with you, I’ve forgotten about last year already.”