Adam Ottavino (in spring training) and Zack Britton (a half-year before that) joined the Yankees aware of the talk surrounding Gary Sanchez.
Both found much of the discussion – that the power-hitting catcher was difficult to throw to and didn’t care about defense — inaccurate.
“For me, you never know what to expect coming in with a new catcher,” Ottavino said Saturday afternoon before ALDS Game 2 against the Twins. “I know there's been a narrative about his catching. I thought he's been pretty awesome the whole year. It only took him like three games in spring training to figure out kind of my MO and just kind of go from there. He's real easy to talk to. He works really hard. He pays attention. I'm guessing he's come a long way, but I think he's doing a pretty good job.”
Britton, who came to the Bronx via trade in 2018 and re-upped with the Yankees over the winter as a free agent, heard much of the same. “He's done a good job this year,” he said. “Even last year, I was pleasantly surprised. I had heard a lot of negative things about him. I didn't find any of it to be true. I thought he was a really good catcher, actually, and has a good feel for game-calling…I think he does a good job of incorporating guys' secondary pitches. I've been really happy with Gary.”
Sanchez’s game-calling is something Yankees pitchers for several years have said is an underrated part of his game. And it stood out to Aaron Boone in Friday night’s ALDS Game 1 victory, even as he struggled at the plate, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk (in Game 2, he was 0-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch).
“I thought he had a great night behind the plate,” Boone said. “I thought his game-calling was really good, I thought he received the ball well, the blocks, there were some difficult ones in there, too. His growth has been awesome. I thought he grew a lot last year, even through some of the struggles. I thought there were a lot of things that were happening that didn't go with the narrative, even late in the year, that he was doing really well. And I think he’s taken another giant leap this year.”
Boone, asked before the game what kind of advice he gets from his father, Bob, a former major-league catcher and manager, pulled out his phone and read a text message he received after Friday’s victory.
“Keep it rolling. Have another good one,” Boone read with a smile. “As far as advice, not that he doesn’t give it, but it’s more he’s just kind of a supportive dad and waits for me to ask if I need anything.”
Tampa taxi squad
The Yankees have a group of players working out in Tampa, keeping them fresh in the event of an injury occurring in this series or, if the club advances, as potential options for the next round. Among those at the minor league complex are infielder Thairo Estrada, outfielder Clint Frazier and righties Ben Heller and David Hale. On Sunday, they will be joined by lefthanders Jordan Montgomery and Stephen Tarpley and first baseman Mike Ford.