Gary Sanchez dealt with the flu and a sore back during spring training in March, before baseball was shut down by COVID-19.
With the Yankees set to open their season next Thursday in Washington, the 27-year-old feels healthy and, just as importantly, said he’s had more time to get comfortable with the lower crouch new catching instructor Tanner Swanson implemented this spring.
“I feel much better now compared to back in spring training,’’ Sanchez said through an interpreter Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. “Overall, I’ve had more time to practice and work with my new stance. In spring training, my back held me back a little bit and prevented me from going at it the way I wanted to. The past two or three months, I went to the Dominican Republic and worked really hard on it.”
The results will be there for all to see soon enough.
Swanson was hired away from the Twins in the offseason in an attempt to get the most out of Sanchez defensively.
A year ago, Sanchez improved his plate-blocking skills, and Swanson said he wants to maintain that while also boosting his effectiveness at framing pitches.
“As the general awareness of pitch-framing continues to grow, more teams and organizations are beginning to value it, so the margins get smaller and the details become really important,’’ Swanson said.
Also important is helping Sanchez develop behind the plate, while not robbing anything from what he does at the plate — especially in a 60-game season.
“We try to be mindful and put him in a position to be at full strength to do what he does and not have any diminished returns in terms of what we expect from him offensively,’’ Swanson said. “That’s a big part of his game and we don’t want to take anything away.”
So far, Swanson has been pleased not just with how Sanchez has looked, but how he’s adapted to the change.
“One thing that’s maybe not talked about enough is this is one of the hardest pitching staffs to catch in all of baseball with the quality of arms throughout,’’ Swanson said. “For a guy like him to step into a starting role at a young age — especially in this market, on this stage in New York — says something about his ability to stay pretty grounded and pretty neutral. And he doesn’t get overly excited. He doesn’t get overly low.”
And that’s continued in spring training 2.0 in The Bronx.
“The biggest thing with Gary that I’ve been most impressed with is his ability to experiment with a new catching style on the biggest stage in our game,’’ Swanson said. “It speaks to his desire to grow and get better and his ability to be a little bit vulnerable.”
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