When he was called up for good from Triple-A in August 2016, Gary Sanchez easily adjusted to the hype that accompanied his arrival. He seemed comfortable being categorized as the next great Yankees prospect.
That still may be the case for the 26-year-old catcher, but a few games into the season, Sanchez already is under scrutiny. He had a giveth-and-taketh-away performance in Sunday’s 7-5 loss to the Orioles.
His first home run of the season was overshadowed by his second throwing error in as many games. His arm is supposed to be his strong suit, but that was not the case over the weekend.
Sanchez’s throwing error Saturday led to an unearned run and his miscue in the series finale was even more pronounced. In the fifth inning, when Jonathan Villar broke for second on a steal attempt, Sanchez’s throw hit him in the backside and ricocheted far enough away for Villar to take third base. He scored on Dwight Smith Jr.’s hit.
“If you look at the throw, it’s probably the same kind of throw [as the one he made Saturday] and the play there, a run scores,’’ Sanchez said through his translator.
“Definitely not what you want there. Like I said [Saturday], you gotta keep improving on those.’’
He said he knows how to fix the problem. “The adjustment to be made, it’s simple,’’ he said. “I pulled on the ball again, made a stronger throw than I wanted and ended up bouncing it. I believe I’m going to be able to correct that sooner rather than later.’’
Sanchez’s long homer to leftfield in the seventh inning came on a 3-and-2 pitch from lefthanded reliever John Means. He had struck out in his first three at-bats.
“I said that I’m feeling better at the plate and it’s about not swinging at bad pitches,’’ he said.
He tossed his bat down after the homer as if to relieve some tension. “It’s hard to describe what you do right after something like that happens because there’s a lot of emotions,’’ Sanchez said. “I know I hit the ball well, but I’m not exactly sure what I did with the bat.’’
Sanchez had a resounding debut in 2016, especially that August, when he hit .389 with 11 home runs and 21 RBIs in 24 games. Overall, he had a .299/.376/.657 slash line with 20 homers and 42 RBIs in 53 games and was second to the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Sanchez hit 33 homers and drove in 90 runs in 122 games in 2017, but his 16 passed balls also frustrated then-manager Joe Girardi, and that might have been a factor in the Yankees’ decision to not have Girardi back in 2018.
Last season, Sanchez battled groin issues and hit .186. He also led the league with 18 passed balls, and the questions started.
Aaron Boone has been more focused on Sanchez’s hitting. “The thing I always talk to him about, have good at-bats and then the results will be there for him,’’ he said. “A little bit of tough luck . . . I feel like he’s close. And as long as he really focuses on quality of at-bat, the results will follow for him.’’