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Yankees’ Gary Sanchez slugging his way toward fulfilling his hype

Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees runs

Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees runs the bases after his second-inning home run against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. Credit: Jim McIsaac

He is the legend of Yankee legends and current Yankee players invoked him twice, in different contexts, this past week while discussing his extraordinary start in the majors.

“That’s Babe Ruth right now,” Starlin Castro said Monday after watching Gary Sanchez homer twice in a loss to the Mariners. “Nobody can get that guy out.”

In Wednesday’s victory, which allowed the Yankees to take two of three, Sanchez, who homered early in the game, was walked twice intentionally late to get to Mark Teixeira.

The veteran first baseman was not offended.

“If Babe Ruth’s hitting behind him, you walk [Sanchez],” Teixeira said. “He’s as hot as any player I’ve ever played with in my entire career. You just don’t see guys doing what he’s doing.”

The numbers are, well, Ruthian.

Actually, the Babe didn’t even accomplish what Sanchez has at this point of his young career.

By going 2-for-3 Wednesday — he added a double — Sanchez became one of just nine players since 1913 to record 15 or more extra-base hits in his first 21 games. Joe DiMaggio, who had 17 extra-base hits in 1936, is the only other Yankee to do it.

“You feel like he’s going to hit the ball hard is what you feel and you’re not sure where it’s going to end up,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But you feel like he’s going to hit the ball hard. He’s been locked in.”

In 18 games since becoming a regular Aug. 3, Sanchez has a .412/.474/.897 slash line, with nine homers and 16 RBIs and an OPS of 1.371.

Condense it to his last 10 games and the numbers are even more other-worldly: a .500/.581/1.250 slash line with eight homers and 12 RBIs and a 1.831 OPS.

Sanchez, 23, has long been a top, and hyped, Yankee prospect, ever since the club signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2009.

Expectations have always been high, but this?

“I thought we were getting a good player,” Girardi said when he handed the catching reins to Sanchez earlier this month. “I don’t think you’d expect this out of anyone, I don’t care how highly touted a player [he is].”

In the face of a daily media barrage of questions, Sanchez has stayed humble.

“Just getting really good results right now and working hard,” he said through his translator. “I don’t really have another explanation for it ... Definitely just keeping things simple. The routine I’m doing now is giving me good results so I’m going to keep doing it.”

He added later of the attention he’s getting because of those results: “I understand it, but the focus is not about me, it’s about winning games here. That’s where my focus is.”

Sanchez’s maturity came into question more than a few times in his minor league career, with the catcher twice drawing disciplinary suspensions. Some felt he might be following in the footsteps of Jesus Montero, who was traded to the Mariners in the Michael Pineda deal before the 2012 season. Montero, also a highly touted catching prospect, rubbed more than a few the wrong way, including some veteran teammates, with what would best be described as a prima donna act after being a September call-up in 2011.

Though there seemed to be flashes of that with Sanchez in the past, it has not been the case this year, even as the numbers have hit the stratosphere.

“Like a different person,” one clubhouse insider said of how Sanchez carries himself now compared with past seasons. “It’s been a 180.”

The complete package Sanchez seems to have developed into has teammates in awe.

“At this point you don’t want to see him have a day off,” Brett Gardner said. “You want him to be able to stay in a groove. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Said Teixeira: “He’s making it look easy right now and it’s not. It’s absolutely not easy at all.”


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