Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez said a week has made quite the difference.
He suffered a Grade 1 right groin strain June 24 in St. Petersburg against the Rays while trying to beat out a double-play ball and was put on the disabled list a day later. But when he walked to his locker in the home clubhouse before Sunday night’s game against the Red Sox, one would not have guessed he is injured.
“Definitely feeling better than I thought I was going to be feeling [a week later],” Sanchez said through his translator. “So that’s good.”
Sanchez, whom Aaron Boone said could be back “around” the All-Star break (July 16-19), said he has not yet started to run, so there are plenty of hurdles to be cleared.
“We’re taking it one step at a time, getting the legs strong again,” said Sanchez, who has been doing work on the exercise bike. “Just trying to get strength in that region where the injury occurred.”
In recent days, Sanchez started light baseball activity, which included playing catch on the field before Saturday night’s game, and to this point hasn’t felt anything in the groin.
“So far, what I’ve been doing, no discomfort at all,” he said. “No pain. I feel like I can do more right now but I haven’t been cleared to run. That’s the next step.”
Sanchez has a more than respectable 14 homers and 41 RBIs but has struggled at the plate this season, hitting .190 with a .291 on-base percentage. When he went to the disabled list, Boone suggested that he might benefit from the rest.
“Hopefully it’s a positive,” Boone said last Monday after the Yankees placed Sanchez on the DL. “Not only allowing him to get physically right, but hopefully it’s a little break for him mentally and he can refresh a little bit.”
Sanchez, however, said he doesn’t view his time on the DL that way. “My mind is fine,” he said Sunday. “Nobody wants to be injured. Using this injury to refresh my mind or get my mind off baseball is not what I wanted. I always thought my mind was strong. You never want to get injured. At the end of the day, you just want to play.”
Sanchez’s progress was part of a double dose of good news at the catching position for the Yankees. An MRI taken of Austin Romine’s left hamstring late Saturday came back negative. Romine, who became the starting catcher when Sanchez was injured, did not start Sunday night, but Boone said he would be available if needed.
“Feel like we dodged a bullet there,” Boone said of the MRI results on Romine. “We’ll try to stay away from him [Sunday night] and hopefully he’ll be back in there against Atlanta [Monday].”
The Yankees, like most organizations, are not exactly teeming with catching depth. When Sanchez went down, that necessitated bringing up Kyle Higashioka, a solid defender who has struggled at the plate (he was 0-for-22 in his major-league career before homering off David Price in the fourth inning, and Aaron Hicks soon followed with his second home run of the night and the Yankees’ fifth to give Luis Severino and the Yankees an 8-0 lead).
The catchers left at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre are Wilkin Castillo and Francisco Diaz, neither of whom is on the 40-man roster. Needless to say, any kind of long-term, or even short-term, injury to Romine would be a blow.
Adding depth, general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday, is an “easier said than done” proposition. In other words, don’t look for a move along those lines before the trade deadline.
“That’s a very thin area,” Cashman said. “I doubt that’s an area that will be available to improve upon in depth because there’s not a lot of great catching running around the game. Trying to improve upon that’s not going to be easy.”