ANAHEIM, Calif. — It hasn’t been only the Yankees and their fans who have been impressed by Gary Sanchez.
“He’s one of those young, talented kids that has a great future,” David Ortiz said.
The Red Sox designated hitter, speaking in the Boston clubhouse before his team’s game against the Orioles on Tuesday night at Camden Yards, shook his head at the power displayed by Sanchez when he hammered a home run to dead center Aug. 10 at Fenway Park, a spot rarely visited by baseballs.
But Ortiz seemed more taken aback by what he saw a day later when Sanchez threw out Jackie Bradley Jr., who walked to start the fourth inning and was retired when he tried to advance on a ball in the dirt.
“That throw to second base?” Ortiz said. “Damn.”
Sanchez, who like Ortiz is from the Dominican Republic, has had the Yankees feeling that way, too, since taking over the every-day catching duties from Brian McCann on Aug. 5.
Entering Friday, Sanchez had a .391/.429/.783 slash line since his call-up Aug. 3. He had hit five home runs, four of them in his previous four games. In his first three at-bats Friday night, he singled, stole a base and doubled twice.
In the Yankees’ most recent series against the Blue Jays, the 23-year-old Sanchez, who again got the start at catcher Friday night against the Angels, went 7-for-10 with three homers and five RBIs.
“Listen, um . . . he’s a stud,” McCann said earlier in the week when pressed about his diminished playing time behind the plate. “This is a time when he’s going to play and play a lot. He’s a future All-Star. There’s not many guys walking around with his talent. He’s one of the best young catchers I’ve seen since I’ve been in the big leagues.”
On Friday night, Joe Girardi had Sanchez catch staff ace Masahiro Tanaka for the first time.
“I think it’s important that he catches everybody,” Girardi said before the game. “Everything we’ve thrown his way, he’s done a really good job.”
Hitting, of course, has long been the least of those concerns.
Since the Yankees signed Sanchez as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 — for $3 million — his bat and arm have been considered givens.
“I think we’ve always had him as a guy that we thought was really going to hit,” Girardi said. “We envisioned him as a good hitter for a long time.”
But Sanchez’s rise hasn’t been without issues.
He has been suspended twice, once for insubordination in 2011 while with Class A Charleston and again in 2014 with Trenton for an undisclosed reason. Then-Trenton manager Tony Franklin said at the time it was a “disciplinary action.”
“Sometimes when you’re a highly touted prospect, the little hiccups that you have become public,” Girardi said. “We all got in trouble when we were 17 years old, is the bottom line . . . For the most part, he’s been a really good kid and has worked really hard. And the growth I’ve seen, he’s gotten in better shape. He’s learned what he needed to do.”
Even in spring training five months ago, Sanchez raised some red flags in the organization. Given an opportunity to win the backup catcher’s job, he didn’t come close to earning it, struggling at the plate and, according to more than a few opposing team scouts, appearing to be overmatched defensively.
Something clicked in Triple-A earlier this season, though.
“Everyone loves to hit, but that’s a defensive position,” Girardi said, gesturing from the dugout toward home plate. “You can see the work he’s done and the way he’s played defensively, he’s made it important. He’s blocked balls, he’s thrown runners out, he’s called good games. He’s done a number of things. Everything I’ve seen, he understands that.”