ANAHEIM, Calif. — It is a plus that Gary Sanchez is the first significant Yankee to step off the injured list and join the lineup, even though he didn’t show it in the Yankees’ 7-5 win over the Angels on Wednesday night.
Sanchez’s return can’t be the be-all and end-all when it comes to the catcher rejoining a team that has been stripped of its best players, staff ace and bullpen stud due to injuries.
Sanchez was activated for Wednesday night’s game at Angel Stadium. He is expected to add muscle to a lineup that has been carried by Luke Voit and Clint Frazier with an occasional sprinkling of power supplied by Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford. And with Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu fighting their way through slides at the plate, Sanchez can help balance that out.
But Sanchez had a game to forget in his return to the lineup, striking out four times and committing a fielding error.
Since Sanchez went on the IL with a strained left calf on April 12 (backdated to April 11), the Yankees had gone 8-3 with Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka, who was sent back to Scranton Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, handling the catching chores. Judging by the Yankees’ rotation pitching very well in the previous eight games (4-1 with a 1.56 ERA), the starters have done well with Sanchez sidelined.
While Sanchez caught better in eight games this year than in the past two seasons, his bat is needed now.
“Obviously, really excited to get him back,’’ Boone said of Sanchez, who was inserted in the cleanup spot. “It was good to write his name in the lineup, no question. Looking forward to him getting back in the fray and help us to continue to win games.’’
How good Sanchez is coming back remains to be seen. Outside of a minor league rehab game for Single-A Charleston on Monday night, Sanchez hasn’t played since April 10 when he pinch hit against the Astros in Houston. The night before that he was the DH and the night prior to that was the last time Sanchez caught.
“There are going to be games for the backup so I am not going to run him into the ground obviously, but he is a full-go player and catcher,’’ Boone said.
Thanks to a three-homer splurge against the Orioles on April 7 in Baltimore, Sanchez has six homers and 11 RBIs in 12 games. His averaged dropped to .244 after Wednesday’s stinnker.
Since Sanchez went on the IL before Greg Bird (left plantar fascia) and Aaron Judge (left oblique strain) went down, but after Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton, it’s good news for the Yankees that he is the first one back.
Yet being back doesn’t automatically mean Sanchez will produce at the plate immediately. And he has the added burden of handling a pitching staff.
The fact nobody can accurately predict when the other injured parts of the lineup will return — and Judge, the most important member of the IL, could be months away — Sanchez not only has to return but perform.
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