TAMPA, Fla. — Gary Sanchez and Gerrit Cole are going to get right back at trying to get on the same page this spring. After having to turn to backup catcher Kyle Higashioka to catch the Yankees ace last year, Aaron Boone plans to have Sanchez catch Cole in his first spring outing. Cole is expected to start on Monday when the Yankees host the Tigers.
Sanchez is coming off a disaster of a year defensively and offensively. Not only did he lose the job of catching Cole, he was benched in September and had just eight at-bats in seven Yankees playoff games.
Sanchez spent the winter working on his defense and swing. He played in the Dominican winter league to try and get back on track.
So far, Boone is pleased with the progress.
“I feel he’s in a good space. His work has been good defensively, offensively,” Boone said. “I think I have him DH in the first game. And then catch in Game 2. So he’s gonna get some at bats the first two games of spring. But yeah, he looks good.”
Boone said he expects most of his regular players to play in the first two games, with the possible exception of Giancarlo Stanton and Brett Gardner.
The Yankees and Blue Jays have agreed to play a seven-inning game on Sunday. In the new world of coronavirus spring training, managers can agree to play games as short as five innings until March 13 and then they can go as short as seven innings, upon mutual agreement of both managers. The teams do have to notify the league the day before.
Also, for games through March 13, defensive managers will be allowed to end an inning prior to three outs following any completed plate appearance, provided the pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches.
It was just three years ago that Miguel Andujar probably should have won the American League Rookie of the Year award. Now, after a season and his position lost to injury, the Yankees have to find ways to get him playing time. With Gio Urshela recovering from surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow this winter, Andujar will get his chances this spring, Boone said.
“He’s gonna get a lot of opportunity to play here early and hopefully, get consistent reps and kind of build some momentum,” Boone said. “I think we all understand what he’s capable of. You got to just take advantage of opportunities and certainly here in spring training, there’ll be plenty of those. Hopefully, we can help him really get ready for the season, and then how things break or where opportunities exist, it’s all about capitalizing on those.”
“We certainly know what he’s capable of,” Boone continued. “Hopefully he can get some good regular reps and build some ... momentum down here in Tampa.”
Jay Bruce finally got here. Almost four years ago, the former Mets slugger got the news in a Philadelphia hotel room that he was being traded. His young family was with him and at that moment he thought he was headed to the Bronx.
Instead he ended up in Cleveland.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I had an opportunity to win a World Series and Cleveland, I think when I got there we went on a 22-game winning streak, so I was extremely happy being in Cleveland,” Bruce said of the mixed-up trade. “I would have been extremely happy being in New York. That’s why I ultimately picked the Yankees now, because I want to win the World Series. I’ve been able to do a lot individually as a player, accomplished quite a bit in my career, but I haven’t been able to get to the top of that hill yet.
“And I think that if you are looking to get there, I think, right now, the New York Yankees [are] poised to be there.”
Bruce joined the Yankees in camp this spring as a non-roster invitee with the idea that the Yankees would eventually re-sign Brett Gardner. Though they are both lefty-hitting outfielders, there could be room for both. While Gardner profiles as a backup center fielder, Bruce plays corner outfield and first base. His swing is built for Yankee Stadium and he has a career 318 home runs.
Boone said there is a lot of time for these roster spot battles to play out, but Bruce has an opt out at the end of March.