Two days after the Yankees tendered Gary Sanchez a contract, he was back in the batter’s box for his first Dominican Winter League game in six seasons.
It wasn’t exactly encouraging.
Sanchez, whose return to The Bronx wasn’t always certain after his unsettling struggles last season, went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts in the Toros del Este’s 2-1 win Friday night. The 28-year-old catcher batted fourth as the DH.
However, it wasn’t all bad news. There were some flashes of vintage Sanchez to cling to.
In his second at-bat, according to NJ.com, Sanchez hit one over the second basemen’s head into right field after working a deep count to put the Toros up 1-0 in the fourth inning. The hit came against Tigres del Licey right-hander Albert Abreu, a 25-year-old Yankees prospect who made his debut during the 2020 season.
Sanchez, a two-time All-Star who won the 2017 Silver Slugger award, whiffed on four pitches in his first at-bat. During his third with the bases loaded, he struck out on four pitches again. After flying out in the seventh inning, Sanchez was struck out on three pitches in the ninth by Jairo Asencio – a 37-year-old who appeared in 43 major-league games from 2009 to 2013.
Friday’s game was Sanchez’s first DWL game since he was a 20-year-old prospect in 2013-14. The Toros are based in La Victoria, Dominican Republic – not far from Sanchez’s hometown, La Roma.
During the 2020 regular season, Sanchez batting a career-low .147 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in 49 games. Sanchez led all MLB catchers in passed balls for the third time in four seasons, while leading in errors for the second straight year. It’s likely Sanchez is looking for a chance to work on things in winter ball after last season, which ended with the Yankees benching him in five of their seven postseason games.
While the Yankees still reserve the right to cut Sanchez in spring training and pay him a much cheaper termination fee, the organization isn’t very deep at the catcher position, with Kyle Higashioka as the only other backstop on the roster. Higashioka also earned the role of ace Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher by midseason.