TRENTON, N.J. - With the bases loaded Wednesday night, Gary Sanchez took a massive swing and crushed the ball, sending it to the wall in rightfield at Arm & Hammer Park.
All three Trenton Thunder baserunners scored on the double. Sanchez, the big-hitting catcher for the Yankees' Double-A affiliate, then hustled to third on an error, sliding in headfirst.
"That," Thunder manager Tony Franklin, "is why people write about him."
There are more reasons why the 6-3, 235-pound Sanchez is being followed closely, though, especially recently. Some are positive. Others are less flattering. A few are not even in his control.
Sanchez entered the season as Baseball America's No. 2 catching prospect and the Yankees' best. But the Yankees signed catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85-million deal in the offseason, making Sanchez expendable. And because injuries to three members of the starting rotation and offensive woes have contributed to a mediocre season for the Yankees, and because Sanchez is one of the few appealing prospects in the organization, his name has been attached to rumored trades as baseball's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
"Right now, I just concentrate on a daily basis on what I'm supposed to do in here," Sanchez said through his translator, Thunder bench coach Orlando Mercado. "I don't think about [anything]. Not the trade deadline, nothing. I just concentrate on what's going to happen tonight, tomorrow and the next day."
It's an approach that has helped him overcome some recent adversity.
Last month, Franklin benched the 21-year-old for five games in what the manager called "disciplinary action."
Sanchez seemingly has responded, going 14-for-37 with a homer and five RBIs in his last 10 games. He's hitting .268 with a .339 on-base percentage, nine homers and 43 RBIs.
Sanchez shook his head when asked about what happened and what -- if anything -- he learned from that situation.
"He doesn't want to comment about that incident," Mercado said. "Next question."
It might be best that Sanchez didn't talk about it. Maturity issues have accompanied him throughout his minor-league career. Sanchez, however, has consistently been able to silence those who question his work ethic with his bat. Hitting has never been a problem. But his defense is another story.
It was a special occasion here Wednesday: CC Sabathia -- who Yankees manager Joe Girardi subsequently said might be done for the season -- made a rehab appearance, and Sanchez was his batterymate. Franklin said that as much as it was a test for Sabathia, it was a test for Sanchez.
Sabathia gave Sanchez a positive review after tossing 32/3 innings. "He did a good job," he said. "Especially in between innings when we wanted to figure out the guys coming up, what we're trying to do and what we're trying to work on."
Sabathia didn't see Sanchez's passed ball in the fifth inning that allowed a run, though.
Sanchez has thrown out 41 percent of runners who have tested his arm, a solid number, but his eight passed balls are the most in the Eastern League. The ever-optimistic Franklin said Sanchez has made strides in blocking pitches and calling a game since last season, however.
"I think Gary's capable of catching major-league pitchers," Franklin said. "Let's make no mistake about it, Gary's a young catcher into his career. Like all young catchers, you'd like for him to be major league-ready . . . but he's made a lot of improvements. I'm really impressed."
Said Sanchez: "I want to improve in everything: blocking, throwing and calling a game."