BUFFALO — Gary Sanchez’s benching lasted all of two games.
The catcher, in a brutal slump pretty much all season, was benched in Baltimore Sunday for the Yankees’ series finale against the Orioles.
After two straight games – both losses in which it was clear Sanchez, as bad as he’s been, was not the sole problem — Aaron Boone had Sanchez back in the lineup, behind the plate and batting seventh, Tuesday night against the Blue Jays.
“Been working on my rhythm at the plate,” Sanchez said before the game through his interpreter of the work he’s been doing with hitting coach Marcus Thames and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere. “Staying inside the ball, being more ready to attack the ball. Those kind of things that would help me get back on track.”
Sanchez, after going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and an error on a dropped foul pop-up, is hitting .125 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in 32 games. He’s in a 5-for-44 skid with 20 strikeouts, striking out 49 times in 104 at-bats overall.
Speaking a day earlier, Boone said the primary focus for he and the coaches is getting Sanchez back to crushing fastballs, something the catcher has done with regularity when he’s had prolonged success. Sanchez agreed, with a caveat.
“There’s been some fastballs there in my zone where I usually [do damage to] those pitches and I’ve missed those, fastballs around 91, 92 [mph],” Sanchez said. “But also some breaking pitches that have been in my zone that I haven’t been able to command. I think it’s been a combination.”
Though he might be the poster child for the Yankees’ struggles of late — the club, in the midst of a 5-15 slide, is 21-21 and in third place in the AL East — the Bombers played two of their worst games of the season after Sanchez’s benching.
That includes Monday’s 12-7 defeat, which easily ranks as one of the worst regular-season losses for the franchise in the last decade.
“Definitely tough for me not to be able to be in that rhythm I’d like to be in the box,” said Sanchez, whose second-inning at-bat Tuesday was extended when Toronto catcher Danny Jansen dropped a pop-up in foul ground (he would ground out). “We’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of our teammates have been out for a while, and not being able to contribute and help the team in the box, it’s been hard. I think I’ve done a good job behind the plate, but it’s definitely been a situation I’ve wanted to help [the offense] and I haven’t been able to do that consistently. But at the same time you have to look at today as a new day.”
General manager Brian Cashman, among Sanchez’s biggest backers in the organization, indicated the catcher’s time on the bench was intended as a brief “timeout” and nothing more.
“All Gary's looking for, despite the poor play, is an opportunity to fight through it,” Cashman said Tuesday shortly after he addressed his skidding team. “He's obviously going to get that and we look forward to better days sooner than later from him, because we need it.”