TAMPA, Fla. — Among the offseason questions surrounding the Yankees was just how Gary Sanchez would come into spring training.
Would he, having been guaranteed the starting catcher’s job with the trade of Brian McCann, come in content with his unprecedented 2016 when he hit 20 homers in 53 games?
Or would he come in motivated to get even better.
The latter seems to be the answer.
Sanchez has been impressive across the board, throwing out most runners daring to run on him and doing damage with the bat. The 24-year-old crushed his third homer of the spring Wednesday in a 10-4 victory over Team Canada at Steinbrenner Field (the stats from the game aren’t official as it was an exhibition and not a part of the Grapefruit League).
“The mentality I have right now is to work as if I’m not the regular catcher,” Sanchez said through his translator. “That’s the way that I like to work but I feel good.”
In seven Grapefruit League games Sanchez has an official slash line of .350/.381/.750 with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs. He’s thrown out five runners.
“There’s a ton of confidence back there,” Joe Girardi said.
Aroldis Chapman’s third outing of the spring was his best. The closer came on in the fourth inning and struck out the side, throwing 12 pitches, 10 strikes. One scout had Chapman hitting 100 mph twice and 99 mph three times. The scout said Chapman’s slider (84-88 mph) and changeup (85-87), both priorities of the pitcher this spring, were both “plus” pitches.
“I don’t think there’s a catcher out there that wouldn’t like a pitcher to come in and get everyone out 1-2-3 like that,” Sanchez said. “He’s awesome.”
Steinbrenner Field recently underwent offseason renovations in the range of $40 million, but most of that was spent on enhancing the fans’ ballpark experience. There have been occasional problems this spring in areas fans don’t have access to such as in the clubhouse where, last week, for example, an unpleasant sewer-like stench pervaded. Wednesday morning the clubhouse roof sprang a leak, not close to the first time this spring, according to one Yankee.
Catcher Kyle Higashioka, likely to start the season in Triple-A but who very well could see playing time in the big leagues this season, hit his third homer of the spring . . . Aaron Hicks and Matt Holliday also homered.